The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was enacted in 1972, and has been amended and updated since. The last comprehensive reauthorization of the law occurred in 1994 and expired in 1999. Since then, reauthorization efforts have stalled as some members of Congress have attempted to weaken these important federal protections. The law remains in effect.

The Act controls:
any "negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal"
50 C.F.R. § 216.3


Exceptions require a permit from NOAA Fisheries:
[ NOAA Permit Regulations ]


The Conservation of Seals Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970, and has essentially not been changed since that date. Although there are suggestions that its application could be reformed through action by the Secretary of State to establish a permanent closed season, killing substantial numbers of common/harbour seals has been considered allowable under the Act.

The Act controls:
'willful' killing, injuring or taking of seals during their breeding (close) season
[ s.1(1), s.2(1), s.3(2) ]

Specified firearms licensed by local Constabulary may apparently be used even during the close season for killing a seal to 'prevent damage to fishing gear':
[ s.9(1)c ]

Licenses may seemingly be given by the Home Office for killing seals for 'prevention of damage to fisheries' at any time:
[ s.10(1)c ]

The interpretation and application of both these two sections above will likely be subject to legal challenge in the near future.

There is currently an extant s.3 conservation order (the Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999), which applies, at present indefinitely, to both gray and common (harbour) seals along the coast between the counties of Northumberland and East Sussex. Under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 both species of seals are protected in Northern Ireland, throughout the year, from being killed or injured.