The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recognizing the forty-year anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act or MMPA. The visionary legislation was enacted in nineteen seventy two to conserve our nation’s oceans ecosystems with a focus on marine mammals such as polar bears, sea otters, walruses, and manatees. In general under the Marine Mammal Protection Act it is prohibited to take,import, possess,transport sell or offer to purchase marine mammals or products made from them. Weimer: The Act was visionary. It was was ground breaking. Betton: Mike Weimer
is the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chief of the Branch of Resource and Mapping support He says forty years of the legislation has made a difference in both the protection of marine mammals and public support. Weimer: It was the first environmental law that we have that actually took into consideration whole ecosystems whole environments versus a single species. So,obviously the focus is on marine mammal protection, but the Act protects the entire system for marine ecosystems. Betton: While all species of marine mammals are protected under the in the MMPA, some are also protected under the Endangered
Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES. The Service has joint jurisdiction for marine mammals under MMPA with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration or NOAA. Weimer: We work with NOAA as well to
help marine mammals in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific. Why is this important? Because again we have a focus
on protecting these marine ecosystems with these iconic species as the poster species of the effort. Betton: About forty
years from now where do you hope to see this going? Weimer: Well at the very least we want to see these iconic animals still around. We’ve got polar bears up north
dealing with some of the ice issues, manatees down in Florida. Again we want to have these iconic animals not simply around, but thriving. Betton: In the meantime the forty-year anniversary will be a year-long of community and educational awareness. For more information on the Marine Mammal Protection Act visit www.fws.gov in Washington, D.C., Kim Betton, U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.