How Are Whales Protected?

Whales, and other marine mammals, are protected under federal laws.  So what do you need to know?

Marine Mammal Protection Act

  • Protects ALL marine mammal species.
  • Prohibits harming or harassing any marine mammal.
  • Harassment includes anything that can change the animal’s natural behavior.
  • Examples of illegal harassment can include:  cutting off a whale’s path, interrupting feeding behaviors, attempting to swim-with or feed any marine mammal, approaching too closely and causing an animal to leave the area, etc.
  • More information on the Marine Mammal Protection Act is available through NOAA Fisheries.

Our See A Spout, Watch Out! tips are specifically designed to help you avoid accidentally harassing whales.

Endangered Species Act

  • Protects endangered and threatened marine mammal populations.
  • Includes many large whales in the North Atlantic (fin, sei, and right whales).
  • Provides additional protections to reduce human-caused harm or harassment.
  • More information on the Endangered Species Act is available through NOAA Fisheries.
North Atlantic right whale. Photo: NOAA