Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Laura L. Lones

First Page



This Note examines how the United States has used the Marine Mammal Protection Act to further international protection of cetaceans--dolphins, porpoises, and whales. The author first reviews the manifold reasons for protecting cetaceans. The author next describes the international operation of the Act as amended in 1984 by surveying those sections that have an impact on United States relations with other states and the regulations and cases that implement those sections. The author concludes that these restrictions have produced a decline in porpoise mortality, although more can be done. The author next describes the successes of the Act's treaty program. Several cetacean species are listed in a protective treaty as endangered, resulting in a prohibition on international trade in those species and their products. United States efforts have produced an international moratorium on whaling. The author continues by examining the 1988 Amendments to the Act. Under the amendments, many restrictions on commercial fishers have been lifted on an interim basis to give the United States Secretary of Commerce enhanced flexibility in dealing with both domestic and foreign fishing fleets. Tuna fishers, however, who pose a danger to porpoises, face even more stringent restrictions than previously, thus holding the Act true to its primary purpose. Finally, the author concludes that, although the Act has had some success, Congress has often been unwilling to impose economic burdens on fishers, and even in many instances when Congress has acted strongly, the executive has been lax in enforcement.