The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 was enacted to maintain marine mammal stocks at their optimum sustainable population (OSP) level and to restore depleted stocks. The law prohibits the take of all 128 species of marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, sea otters, manatees, polar bears, seals, and walruses. The term “take” is defined as “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill any marine mammal.”
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provides for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals. It also calls for protection of the habitats and ecosystems in which these species are found. The law requires federal agencies, in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, to ensure that the actions they authorize are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or cause the destruction of the habitats those species depend on.