Alaska is home to a host of marine mammals that reside in our generous coastal habitats, three of which are directly under the care and authority of the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service: Northern Sea Otters, Pacific Walrus, and Polar Bears. Our sister agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service, handles whales, seals and sea lions. The efforts of both agencies, directed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, help maintain the welfare of Alaska's rich marine mammal population.
Marine Mammals 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, handled by the Marine Mammals Management Program. 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.
Marine Mammal Protection Act
The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects all marine mammals, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), sirenians (manatees and dugongs), sea otters, and polar bears within the waters of the United States. The Act makes it illegal to "take" marine mammals without a permit. This means people may not harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal or part of a marine mammal. The Act also formalized the marine mammal health and stranding response program to improve the response of stranding and unusual mortality events. The MMPA is the legal foundation for all the efforts put forth by the Marine Mammals Management office.
Alaska Native Hunters and Handicrafters
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is authorized to conserve polar bears, Pacific walrus, and sea otters. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and its implementing regulations Alaska Native peoples may hunt these species. For each species, we offer information you should be aware of before, during and after your hunt. In addition, we provide information about making, selling and transporting marine mammal products.