Forty years after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), no marine mammal species in U.S. waters has been extirpated and the populations of many marine animals are more abundant than in 1972,
a new study says. While many species, including the endangered right whale, remain at significant risk, the populations of other species — including gray seals in New England and sea lions and elephant seals on the Pacific coast — have “recovered to or near their carrying capacity,” scientists say. “At a very fundamental level, the MMPA has accomplished what its framers set out to do, to protect individual marine mammals from harm as a result of human activities,” said Andrew Read, a professor at Duke University and co-author of the study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Passed at a time when numerous species were on the edge of extinction, the MMPA imposed strict regulations against commercial killing and the incidental bycatch of marine mammals by the fishing industry.