Sea Otter Legalities
Steller Sea Lion Legalities
Federal Regulations
 

FEDERAL REGULATIONS

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) were provided management authority for marine mammals. NMFS manages all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and all pinnipeds except walrus (seals and sea lions). The USFWS manages all other marine mammals that fall under the MMPA. By regulation, this is defined as sea otters, walrus, polar bear, manatee, dugong and marine otter (see definition of marine mammal in 50 CFR 18.3).

Each of these two agencies have promulgated regulations that interpret the law, and these are found in the Code of Federal Regulations. Because NMFS and USFWS are different agencies, their interpretations may differ. In the event that there are differing regulations for the same activity or definition, we have posted both versions with associated agency identifying information. NMFS regulations can be downloaded in full here.

Definition of Alaska Native:
*According to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (P.L. 92-203, December 18, 1971, 43 U.S.C. 1603(b)):
“Sec. 3(b). “Native” means a citizen of the United States who is a person of one-fourth degree or more Alaska Indian (including Tsimshian Indians enrolled or not enrolled in the Metlaktla Indian Community), Eskimo, or Aleut blood, or combination thereof. The term includes any Native, as so defined, either or both of whose adoptive parents are not Natives. It also includes, in the absence of proof of a minimum blood quantum, any citizen of the United States who is regarded as an Alaska Native by the Native village or Native group, of which he claims to be a member and whose father or mother is (or, if deceased, was) regarded as Native by any village or group. Any decision of the Secretary regarding eligibility for enrollment shall be final.”

*According to current USFWS and NMFS regulations (50 CFR 18.3, 50 CFR 216.3 respectively):
The entire paragraph above with the addition of this sentence: “Any citizen enrolled by the Secretary pursuant to Section 5 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act shall be conclusively presumed to be an Alaska Native for purposes of this part.”

Definition of subsistence:
* According to current NMFS regulations (50 CFR 216.3):
"Subsistence means the use of marine mammals by Alaska Natives for food, clothing, shelter, heating, transportation, and other uses necessary to maintain the life of the taker or for those who depend upon the taker to provide them with such subsistence.”

* According to current USFWS regulations (50 CFR 18.3):
The USFWS definition is almost identical, but it begins..." Subsistence means the use by Alaskan Natives of marine mammals ..."

Definition of Authentic Native articles of handicrafts and clothing:
* According to ESA Section 10(e) Exemptions:

“The term ‘authentic native articles of handicrafts and clothing’ means items composed wholly or in some significant respect to natural materials, and which are produced, decorated, or fashioned in the exercise of traditional native handicrafts without the use of pantographs, multiple carvers, or other mass copying devices. Traditional native handicrafts include, but are not limited to, weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, and painting.”

* According to current USFWS regulations (50 CFR 18.3):
…items made by an Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo that are composed wholly or in some significant respect of natural materials and are significantly altered from their natural form and are produced, decorated, or fashioned in the exercise of traditional native handicrafts without the use of pantographs, multiple carvers, or similar mass-copying devices. Improved methods of production utilizing modern implements such as sewing machines or modern techniques at a tannery registered pursuant to § 18.23(c) of this subchapter (in the case of marine mammals) may be used as long as no large-scale mass production industry results. Traditional native handicrafts include, but are not limited to, weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, and painting. The formation of traditional native groups, such as cooperatives, is permitted as long as no large-scale mass production results. (Effective September 14, 2006)

* According to current NMFS regulations (50 CFR 216.3):
...items made by an Indian, Aleut or Eskimo which (a) were commonly produced on or before December 21, 1972, and (b) are composed wholly or in some significant respect of natural materials, and (c) are significantly altered from their natural form and which are produced, decorated, or fashioned in the exercise of traditional native handicrafts without the use of pantographs, multiple carvers, or similar mass copying devices. Improved methods of production utilizing modern implements such as sewing machines or modern tanning techniques at a tannery registered pursuant to Sec. 216.23(c) may be used so long as no large scale mass production industry results. Traditional native handicrafts include, but are not limited to, weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, and painting. The formation of traditional native groups, such as a cooperative, is permitted so long as no large scale mass production results.


Significantly Altered from its Natural Form
Most recently the USFWS clarified the term "significantly altered from its natural form" for sea otter handicraft. This is not in regulation however it is guidance provided to hunters and artisans, and what their Law Enforcement Officers will consider when evaluating whether a piece of handicraft qualifies as significantly altered. (Language taken directly from their clarification document.)

“A sea otter will be considered to significantly altered when it is no longer recognizable as a whole sea otter hide, and has been made into a handicraft or article of clothing as is identified below:

  "1. A tanned, dried, cured or preserved sea otter hide, devoid of the head, feet, and tail (i.e. blocked) that is substantially changed by any of the following , but is not limited to: weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, painting, other decorative fashion, or made into another material or medium; and cannot be easily converted back to an unaltered hide or piece of hide.

  "2. Tanned, dried, cured or preserved sea otter head, feet or tail, devoid of the remainder of the hide which includes any of the following, but is not limited to: weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, painting, other decorative fashion, or made into another material or medium. 

"While it is the intent of this guidance to help people comply with the Service's regulatons, this document does not remove the ability of the service to make a compliance determination based on specific facts."

The complete guidance document can be found here.

Definition of Stranded Marine Mammal
* According to current NMFS regulations (50 CFR 216.3):
Stranded or stranded marine mammal means a marine mammal specimen under the jurisdiction of the Secretary:
    (1) If the specimen is dead, and is on a beach or shore, or is in the water within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States; or
    (2) If the specimen is alive, and is on a beach or shore and is unable to return to the water, or is in the water within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States where the water is so shallow that the specimen is unable to return to its natural habitat under its own power.

Definition of “Wasteful Manner:
* According to current USFWS regulations (50 CFR 18.3):

...any taking or method of taking which is likely to result in the killing or injuring of marine mammals beyond those needed for subsistence purposes or for the making of authentic Native articles of handicrafts or clothing or which results in the waste of a substantial portion of the marine mammal and includes without limitation the employment of a method of taking which is not likely to assure the capture or killing of a marine mammal, or which is not immediately followed by a reasonable effort to retrieve the marine mammal.

* According to current NMFS regulations (50 CFR 216.3):
...any taking or method of taking which is likely to result in the killing of marine mammals beyond those needed for subsistence, subsistence uses, or for the making of authentic Native articles of handicrafts and clothing, or which results in the waste of a substantial portion of the marine mammal and includes, without limitation, the employment of a method of taking which is not likely to assure the capture or killing of a marine mammal, or which is not immediately followed by a reasonable effort to retrieve the marine mammal.

 

5 December 2013

Baleen dish and two ivory bracelets. Jack Collection.

 

Ivory polar bears on whale bone ear. Jack Collection.

 

15 inch seal skin ptarmigan child's toy. Nevelo Collection.

 

Teddy bears made from sea otter fur. TASSC Collection. Photo © TASSC.

       

© 2005 The Alaska Sea Otter & Steller Sea Lion Commission 
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