Preparing for the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)

Now is the time to begin the compliance process.

The clock is ticking louder and louder.     Starting on December 1, 2022, all salmon-producing nations face a ban on fish exports to the US unless they comply with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Once the Marine Mammal Protection Act comes into effect, fish imports from salmon farms and commercial fisheries that operate in countries that kill or injure marine mammals will be restricted. For Norway, Scotland, Chile and others who who export heavily to the U.S., failure to comply with the MMPA could prove devastating to their local aquaculture and commercial fishing industries.


Even beyond regulatory sanctions, consumers, retailers and activists are also increasingly hostile to crude and antiquated fish farming practices. The practice of shooting seals and or harming them with conventional acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) will also become outlawed in the near future in other parts of the world.

What are the MMPA guidelines relating to spearing and the use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs)?    The Marine Mammal Protect Act prohibits the act of seal spearing by commercial fisheries or any other acts that have significant potential to injure a marine mammal. Specifically, the MMPA recommends avoiding any commercial fishing activity that has “the potential to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal stock in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, breathing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering, to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered.”

Key Dates To Remember

Comparability filing – November 2021

MMPA compliance – December 31, 2022

The MMPA prohibits the use of harmful Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) and any other type of deterrent or practice that is found to be “unduly harmful to any species of population stock of marine mammal” could run afoul of the MMPA. In other words, if ADDs are used by fisherman or fish farmers, that country runs the risk of being banned from export to the U.S.

Most acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) available in the market employ loud, aversive noises, often exceeding source levels of 1-70 kHz (or sometimes 190-210 dB (re 1 µPa), with significant energy extending up to into the ultrasonic range. There is a preponderance of evidence documenting the harmful impact of ADDS on seals and porpoises and potentially even whales. Seals in particular have been shown to experience discomfort and observed to raise their heads above the surface to avoid the sound.

Research shows that seals habituate to the sounds of ADDs. The harmful impact is cumulative and can cause potentially lethal hearing loss, stress, and disorientation. ADD’s can also lead to habitat exclusion and dislocation of seals, porpoises, and whales from their natural environment for feeding and breeding. Harbour porpoises have even been known to disappear within two miles after a single interaction with an ADD.

The Path to Compliance     To preserve access to the U.S. market either directly or through an intermediary market, each country is required to apply for a “comparability” finding by November 1, 2022. The comparability finding is an evaluation by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce) to help ensure that every exporting country implements a comprehensive internal fishing regulatory program. In the comparability finding, countries must include industry bycatch levels and/or details on fishing techniques, including gear used, and methods used to deter marine mammals, target species, qualitative data from log books or fishing reports, and the species and distribution of marine mammals in the area. In a nutshell, each exporting country needs to implement restrictions on bycatch that are similar to those of the United States.

To be sure, now is the time for countries – and the government agencies managing their respective fishing industries – to begin making the necessary regulatory and structure changes needed to fulfill the comparability finding standards.

MMPA Implementation and Timeline      The Marine Mammal Protection Act original legislation dates back to 1972, when the U.S. Congress passed a landmark bill that protected marine mammals from being hunted, captured, and traded. In 2017, NMFS issued an updated providing that provided a five-year exemption period for countries to develop and implement their own regulatory programs.

However, In November of 2020, the NOAA extended the deadline submission of comparability finding to November 1, 2021. Final implementation and approval each country’s regulatory program must be completed by December 2022. Countries who fail to submit a comparability finding – or whose comparability finding is not approved by the U.S. government – will be banned from importing fish into the United States once the MMPA takes effect in December 2022.

GenusWave technology is fully compliant under the Marine Mammal Protection Act     GenusWave’s Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology, a breakthrough developed at the University of St Andrews, provides an effective and humane way to deter predatory mammals from fish. In contrast to ADDs, TAST emits signals in frequency bands that don’t harm porpoises, dolphins, or seals. Published research from the University of St Andrews shows that Salmon Safe deters seals without impacting harbor porpoise by using a noise dose that is 10 factors lower than in conventional ADDs.