Seal Protection Laws: Combatting Harassment and Ensuring Welfare

Wildlife law Apr 24, 2024

Seal protection laws, especially in the United States, are primarily governed by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which makes it illegal to harass marine mammals, including seals.

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The MMPA defines harassment in two levels: Level A harassment, which could potentially injure a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild, and Level B harassment, which has the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by disrupting behavioral patterns like migration, breeding, or feeding.

The MMPA prohibits activities such as feeding or attempting to feed marine mammals in the wild because these actions can alter natural behaviors, make animals dependent on human-provided foods, and increase the risk of injuries from boats or other human interactions. Such regulations are enforced to ensure that marine mammals’ natural behaviors are preserved and that they remain wild and not conditioned to human interaction.

To support the welfare of seals and other marine mammals, NOAA Fisheries also enforces specific viewing guidelines to prevent harassment. These guidelines recommend observing marine mammals from a safe distance-generally at least 50 yards by land or sea, and 333 yards by air for certain species. These measures help minimize stress and disturbance to the animals.

Enforcement of these laws is crucial and includes monitoring and penalties for non-compliance to protect marine species from harm. This robust legal framework helps ensure that marine mammals, including seals, are protected in their natural habitats, supporting their health and conservation.

For anyone interested in the welfare of seals and other marine mammals, adhering to these guidelines and supporting conservation efforts are effective ways to contribute positively to their preservation and well-being.

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