Marine Mammals Management
Alaska Region


Cooperative Agreements

In April 1994, an amendment to the Marine Mammals Protection Act included provisions for the development of cooperative agreements between USFWS and Alaska Native organizations to conserve marine mammals and provide for the co-management of subsistence use by Alaska Natives. Section 119 of the MMPA amendments authorized the appropriation of funds to the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Commerce to implement co-management activities in Alaska. The Indigenous People's Council for Marine Mammals (IPCOMM), U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resource Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, and FWS have developed a Memorandum of Agreement to provide the foundation and direction for the use of co-management funds provided under Section 119 of the MMPA.

To facilitate co-management activities, cooperative agreements were completed by USFWS, the Alaska Nanuuq Commission (ANC) and the Eskimo Walrus Commission (EWC). The cooperative agreements funded a wide variety of management issues, including:

  • commission co-management operations
  • biological sampling programs
  • harvest monitoring
  • collection of Native knowledge in management
  • international coordination on management issues
  • cooperative enforcement of the MMPA
  • development of local conservation plans.

To help realize our mutual management goals, ANC, EWC, IPCOMM, and USFWS regularly hold workshops to discuss future expectations and outline a shared vision of co-management.


Successful results of co-management agreements

Sea Otter Biological Monitoring Program: obtains biological information on life history, exposure to environmental contaminants and population health using information provided by coastal Native communities. Many Native people from around the state have been trained in general necropsy and tissue collection procedures for subsistence hunted sea otters.

Polar Bear Traditional Ecological Knowledge: collects knowledge from Alaska Natives regarding polar bear habitat use in the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering Seas and adjacent Alaska coastline. This is a significant contribution to our understanding of polar bears and other species and their habitats. Traditional Native knowledge is helpful when formulating a conservation strategy. This program is currently being expanded into Russia.

Walrus Harvest Monitoring: USFWS and EWC monitor the subsistence harvest of walrus in the Native villages of Gambell and Savoonga Savoonga. USFWS technicians and village residents work together and collect information on the size and demographics of the spring harvest by conducting hunter interviews and obtaining biological samples. Walrus harvest monitoring is also being expanded to include Russian Native harvests.

Benefits of Co-management

Co-management provides opportunities for equal participation in the management of marine mammal resources.

Co-management projects have:

  1. prompted environmental education and marine mammal conservation in Alaska Native communities, and
  2. promoted the education of people outside the Native communities in the traditional ecological knowledge of marine mammals.


Last updated: March 10, 2014