Oceanus Magazine
Back to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Homepage

Images: Caught in the Middle of the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Around the world, many whale species are endangered. Yet the primary U.S. laws designed to protect them—and the agencies that enforce those laws—sometimes hamper research that could help protect marine mammals. (Marty Snyderman, Digital Stock)

WHOI biologist Peter Tyack testifies about the Marine Mammal Protection Act before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. "The dirty secret of the MMPA is that the prohibition on unintentional takes is ignored more often than it is regulated and enforced," he said. "There is no regulation of this risk, nor, to my knowledge, has any ship captain been prosecuted for striking a whale and killing it." (Photo Op)

Strict enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act sometimes restricts scientists' ability to conduct research that enhances knowledge about the animals and leads to new ways to protect them. Above, scientists use temporary suction-cupped digital tags to determine how whales respond to ships, natural noises, and alarm stimuli. (Photo by Carol Carson, WHOI)