Alaska Marine Mammals Regulatory FAQ

What is take and harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act? 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act includes specific definitions for take and for harassment, which includes both "Level A" and "Level B" harassment. Take is further defined under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations (50 C.F.R. 18.3).

Take means to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal, including, without limitation, any of the following: The collection of dead animals or parts thereof; the restraint or detention of a marine mammal, no matter how temporary; tagging a marine mammal; or the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel, or the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in the disturbing or molesting of a marine mammal.

Level A harassment means any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that has the potential to injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild.

Level B harassment refers to acts that have the potential to disturb (but not injure) a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by disrupting behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

How do I know if I need to apply for an incidental take authorization?

It is illegal to take marine mammals in the course of activities, even if you tried to prevent take but it still happens accidentally. Therefore, it is a good idea to apply for an incidental take authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if you are conducting activities likely to result in any incidental take of the marine mammals that the Service manages. In Alaska, these are sea otters, polar bears, and Pacific walruses. Projects in these species’ ranges that produce high levels of noise (e.g. pile driving, seismic surveys) or that involve large-scale or extended operations generally have the potential to cause take, and an incidental take authorization may provide you necessary legal coverage. If you are not sure whether you need an incidental take authorization for your project, please reach out by email to the Marine Mammals Management Regulatory Program ( Staff can provide information on the likelihood of your activities causing incidental take. They can also recommend measures that will lower the risk of take whether or not you decide to apply for an authorization.  

How do I know if marine mammals are in my proposed project area?

Use our Information for Planning and Consulting (IPaC) tool. It allows you to define your project area on a map (by drawing its footprint or uploading a shape file) and then outputs protected resources that can occur in the area. One of the tabs under the Resources output is Marine Mammals. If any marine mammals managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service occur in your project area, they will be listed here. *Note the Pacific walrus range map is temporarily missing from the IPaC IPaC
Information for Planning and Consultation (IPaC) is a project planning tool that streamlines the USFWS environmental review process

Learn more about IPaC
tool—please refer to its general species range map in the Pacific Walrus Species Status Assessment.   

How long does it take to process an application for an incidental take authorization?

It depends on the complexity and scale of proposed activities. We generally recommend submitting a complete application at least six months before an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) is needed and at least 12 months before Incidental Take Regulations (ITRs) are needed. IHAs and ITRs may take as long as 12 or 18 months to finalize, respectively. We strongly recommend communicating with the MMM Regulatory program prior to submitting an application. Please see the Applicant Instruction page for more information.