laws: marine mammal legislation
There are three US laws concering the capture and captivity of marine mammals

The Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA)

Passed in 1972, the MMPA prohibits the taking of any marine mammal from US waters or by US citizens in international waters except by special permit. Permits for capture or importation may be granted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the purposes of scientific work, public display, or strandings or accidental captures by fishermen.

A marine park wishing to capture or import a marine mammal must file an application, under one of the listed exemptions, with NMFS. The application must list the number and species of animals involved, the method of capture (which must be "humane"), the names and qualifications of personnel involved in the capture or transport, and the impact the capture may have on the wild population. The application is then published in the Federal Register and open for public comment for 30 days. NMFS usually makes a decision on the application within four or five months. The most recent amendments to the MMPA in 1994 stripped NMFS of its authority to deny applications to export marine mammals or transport them among states. Previously, animal owners wishing to sell or transport animals had to submit an application to NMFS showing that the facility to which the animals were being transferred and the method of transport were acceptable under standards set by the Animal Welfare Act (see below). The 1994 amendments changed the requirements so that the individual seeking to transfer animals need only file a letter with NMFS stating that the procedures and facilities meet the standard. NMFS no longer has authority to deny these applications or inspect or oversee the destination facilities.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)
The Animal Welfare Act delegates the responsibility for setting standards for the handling, care, treatment and transport of animals to the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS issues regulations for the minimum standards for keeping captive marine mammals -- pool size, water quality, transport methods, etc. The AWA provides for inspection of marine parks and other facilities holding captive marine mammals by government-employed veterinarians. Such inspections have been criticized, however, for not being frequent or rigorous enough.

National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)
NEPA charges the federal government with doing a study (an "environmental impact statement" -- EIS) of the environmental impact of any major federal action. The granting of marine mammal capture and import permits were exempted from this requirement until recently. Since the exemption was repealed, an EIS on the impact of "swim with dolphins" programs and on the Navy's taking of dolphins from the Gulf of Mexico have been undertaken.

State Laws
South Carolina is the only state in the US which has prohibited the public display of cetaceans.

home .  viewer discussion .  the debate .  inside seaworld .  interviews .  keiko .  slaughter
other captive orcas .  ted griffin .  navy dolphins .  man & marine mammals .  laws
press reaction .  tapes & transcripts

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

pbs online