Marine Mammal Protection Act

The following are selected relevant parts of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that specifically relate to Orca whale watching:

Sec. 2 (16 USC 1361)

Sec. 2 – Congressional findings and declaration of policy

The Congress finds that –

(1) certain species and population stocks of marine mammals are, or may be, in danger of extinction or depletion as a result of man’s activities;

(2) such species and population stocks should not be permitted to diminish beyond the point at which they cease to be a significant functioning element in the ecosystem of which they are a part, and, consistent with this major objective, they should not be permitted to diminish below their optimum sustainable population. Further measures should be immediately taken to replenish any species or population stock which has already diminished below that population. In particular, efforts should be made to protect essential habitats, including the rookeries, mating grounds, and areas of similar significance for each species of marine mammal from the adverse effect of man’s actions;

(3) there is inadequate knowledge of the ecology and population dynamics of such marine mammals and of the factors which bear upon their ability to reproduce themselves successfully;

(4) negotiations should be undertaken immediately to encourage the development of international arrangements for research on, and conservation of, all marine mammals;

(5) marine mammals and marine mammal products either –

(A) move in interstate commerce, or

(B) affect the balance of marine ecosystems in a manner which is important to other animals and animal products which move in interstate commerce, and that the protection and conservation of marine mammals and their habitats is therefore necessary to insure the continuing availability of those products which move in interstate commerce; and

(6) marine mammals have proven themselves to be resources of great international significance, esthetic and recreational as well as economic, and it is the sense of the Congress that they should be protected and encouraged to develop to the greatest extent feasible commensurate with sound policies of resource management and that the primary objective of their management should be to maintain the health and stability of the marine ecosystem. Whenever consistent with this primary objective, it should be the goal to obtain an optimum sustainable population keeping in mind the carrying capacity of the habitat.

Sec. 102 (USC 1372)

Sec.102 – Prohibitions

(a) Taking

Except as provided in sections 1371, 1373, 1374, 1379, 1381, 1383, 1383a, and 1387 of this title and subchapter V of this chapter, it is unlawful –

(1) for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or any vessel or other conveyance subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take any marine mammal on the high seas;

Sec. 3 (16 usc 1362)

Sec. 3 – Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter:

(13) The term “take” means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.


In addition to the above federal law, see the local guidelines for the implementation of this law: Northwest Marine Fisheries Service Whale Watching Guidelines.