U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Marine Mammal Management

The Alaska Regional Office of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the conservation of polar bears, northern sea otters, and Pacific walruses that inhabit Alaskan waters. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 provide direction for our activities. Our management and research programs promote international coordination between the United States, Russian Federation, Norway, Greenland, and Canada, co-management of subsistence hunting and other activities with Alaska Natives, habitat conservation, species protection, and the regulation of offshore and coastal economic development activities to ensure compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and all other relevant laws and regulations.

Marking & Tagging

Woman splitting a walrus hide for traditional boat covering.
Woman splitting a walrus hide for traditional boat covering. Photo credit USFWS.

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Mammals We Protect

Anesthetized Polar Bear
Anesthetized Polar Bear. Photo credit USFWS.

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Sea otters
Sea Otters, Photo credit Kristine Sowl/USFWS.

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Marine Mammals Protect Act of 1972

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 is the legal foundation for all that we do in the Marine Mammals Management office.

Of particular interest are the following provisions:

Stock Assessment Reports

Section 117 of the MMPA requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to report periodically on the status of marine mammal stocks within Alaskan waters. Our Stock Assessment Reports cover northern sea otters, Pacific walrus and polar bears.

Cooperative Agreements

Section 119 of the MMPA authorizes the appropriation of funds to develop cooperative agreements between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Native organizations for co-managing subsistence use of marine mammals.

Incidental Take Authorizations

In Alaska, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects polar bears, Pacific walrus, and sea otters by prohibiting "take" of these animals.  The MMPA provides for specific exceptions to the prohibition on taking, including a provision that allows U.S. citizens to take small numbers of marine mammals incidental to specified activities. Permissible methods of taking and other means of affecting the least practicable impact on the species or stock and its habitat, and requirements pertaining to the monitoring and reporting of such takings, are prescribed as part of the authorization process.

To learn more and download the requisite forms, click below.

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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 DivisionNational 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.

Partners Contact Information

National Marine Fisheries Service offices:
709 W. 9th Street, Suite 453, P.O. Box 21668
Juneau, Alaska 99802-1668
(907) 586-7221

701 C Street, P.O. Box 43, Anchorage, Alaska 99513
(907) 271-5006

State of Alaska
State Historic Preservation Officer, Office of History and Archeology
550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1310, Anchorage, Alaska 99503 
(907) 269-8721

Alaska SeaLife Center
301 Railway Avenue, P.O. Box 1329, Seward, AK 99664
(907) 224-6300 or 1-800-224-2525

Alaskan Native Marine Mammal Commissions:

Alaska Nanuuq Commission
P.O. Box 69, Barrow, Alaska 99723
(907) 852-0350

Eskimo Walrus Commission, Kawerak Inc.
P.O. Box 948, Nome, Alaska 99762 
(907) 443-4380

Stock Assessment Reports

Section 117 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended in 1994, requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to report periodically on the status of marine mammal stocks within Alaskan waters. Each stock assessment includes a description of the stock's geographic range, a minimum population estimate, current population trends, current and maximum net productivity rates, optimum sustainable population levels and allowable removal levels, and estimates of annual human-caused mortality and serious injury through interactions with commercial fisheries and subsistence hunters. Stock assessment reports are used to evaluate the progress of fisheries towards achieving the goal of zero mortality and serious injury to marine mammals.

Walrus:

Polar Bear:

Sea Otter:

2014

2008

For more information, and for Stock Assessment Reports on other marine mammals, visit the National Marine Fisheries Service web site.

Reports

To receive a copy of a publication or report listed here, please contact: 
Marine Mammals Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503
or call 907-786-3800