U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Marking, Tagging & Reporting

The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 allows Alaska Natives to harvest marine mammals for subsistence uses.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (pdf) requires that all sea otter and polar bear hides and skulls, and all walrus tusks be tagged by a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This program is implemented through resident MTRP taggers located in coastal villages and communities throughout Alaska.

To find out how to contact taggers, call Brad Benter or Forrest Hannan at 1-907-786-3980 or 1-907-786-3551.

There are more than 150 taggers located in about 100 villages. The information collected by the MTRP will help ensure the long-term survival of these species by monitoring the Native harvest and controlling the illegal take, trade, and transport of marine mammal parts.

MTRP personnel are also active in the Walrus Harvest Monitoring Program (WHMP). In this program, USFWS representatives monitor the annual spring walrus hunt in several Alaskan villages. The representatives record information on the animals taken in the hunt, collect biological samples and assist in tagging the ivory of the harvested walruses.

Annual reports from the WHMP are available by contacting the Marine Mammals office at 1-907-786-3819 or 1-800-362-5148.

Summary of the MTRP Rule

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has amended 50 CFR Part 18, to establish marking, tagging and reporting regulations as authorized under Section 109(i) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act(act) of 1972 as amended. This action implements a 1981 amendment to the Act and will assist the Service in: 1) monitoring the subsistence and handicraft harvest of polar bears, sea otters and walrus; 2)obtaining essential biological data needed to manage these species or stocks; and 3)helping to control the illegal take, trade, and transport of specified raw marine mammal parts.

The final rule was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 1988. After an implementation period of 120 days, the new rule became mandatory, and on October 28, 1988, the Marking, Tagging and Reporting Program became effective. During this period, local Natives (as often as possible) were hired and trained, and the necessary kits and supplies were purchased and distributed to the local tagging employees. Tagging kits are provided by the Service and training is conducted by the coordinator of the program or his representative. The taggers affix a dated, numbered, color-coded, locking plastic tag to the hide and skulls of polar bears and sea otters presented for tagging. Walrus ivory is removed from the nose plate, and a plastic headed wire tag is attached through a small hole drilled in the root area of the tusk.

The reporting forms provided with the tagging kit are used to record information regarding species, tag number, measurements, sex, approximate age, and location and date of kill or find. In the case of walrus, the type of take is also recorded. Each polar bear and sea otter has a tooth removed to be examined for age.

Failure to comply with the rule by the Native hunter or possessor of the specified parts, registered agents, and tanneries could result in seizure of the parts and/or penalties of up to $10,000 for each infraction. Information obtained from the program is published for public review in the Service's Region 7 Annual Report.

To receive a copy of a publication or report, please contact:

Marine Mammals Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1011 E. Tudor Road, Anchorage, Alaska 99503
or call 907-786-3800

Technical Reports


Trent, J.N. and R. B. Benter. 2012. A chronology of Pacific walrus tusk marking as a management tool in Alaska. Poster: Alaska Marine Science Symposium Jan. 16-20, 2012. Anchorage, Alaska.


Benter, R.B. and C. Koonooka. 2011. Local factors affecting subsistence walrus harvest on Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska. Poster: Alaska marine Science Symposium Jan. 18-22, 2011 Anchorage, Alaska.


Benter, R.B. and C. Koonooka. 2010. Local factors affecting subsistence walrus harvest on Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska. Poster: Marine Mammals of the Holarctic Oct. 2010 Kaliningrad, Russia.


Benter, R. B. and M. D. Robards.  2009.  Trends in the subsistence walrus harvest in the   Bering Sea.   Poster: Alaska Marine Science Symposium Jan. 19-23, 2009.  Anchorage Alaska.

Burn, D.M., J. L. Bodkin and J. N. Trent. 2009.  What marine mammal biologists know about sea otters in Prince William Sound.  Chugach Alaska Corporation Newsletter. (Submitted) Anchorage, Alaska

Trent, J. N. and R. B. Benter.  2009  Marking, Tagging and Reporting Program: Subsistence harvest assessment for northern sea otters, Pacific walruses and polar bears in Alaska.  Poster Alaska Marine Science Symposium Jan 19-23, 2009. Anchorage Alaska.

Trent, J. N. and R. B.  Benter.  2009.  Monitoring the Alaska subsistence harvest of northern sea otters Pacific walruses and polar bears in changing times.  Poster: 18th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals. Oct. 11-16, 2009.    Quebec City,   Canada.


Since 2004 MTRP has also annually published the Marine Mammal Bulletin which is intended for communication with harvest taggers and marine mammal hunters. We have a mailing list of about 700 addressees.

Fact Sheets

Bulletins: Polar Bear, Sea Otter and Walrus News for Harvest Taggers

Spring 2010

Fall 2011

Fall 2012

Winter 2013