The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) was enacted in 1972, and has been amended and updated since. The last comprehensive reauthorization of the law occurred in 1994 and expired in 1999. Since then, efforts to reauthorize have stalled as some members of the US Congress have attempted to weaken these important protections. The law remains in effect.

The Act controls: "any "negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal" - 50 C.F.R. § 216.3
Exceptions require a permit from NOAA Fisheries:
[ NOAA Permit Regulations ]


The geographic position of Canada has given it the greatest numbers and variety of seal species on the planet. The laws regarding them appear to be in constant flux, and whether harbor seals are protected, eaten for subsistence, "harvested" as a resource, or killed in flawed attempts to protect valuable fisheries stocks depends upon provincial and local assumptions and the state of political weather. When a clearer picture emerges, it will be reported here.


The Conservation of Seals Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970, and has essentially not been changed since that date. Although there are suggestions that its application could be reformed through action by the Secretary of State to establish a permanent closed season, killing substantial numbers of common (harbour) seals has been considered allowable under the Act.
The Act controls: 'willful' killing, injuring or taking of seals during their breeding (close) season - [ s.1(1), s.2(1), s.3(2) ]
Specified firearms licensed by local Constabulary may apparently be used even during the close season for killing a seal to 'prevent damage to fishing gear': [ s.9(1)c ]
Licenses may seemingly be given by the Home Office for killing seals for 'prevention of damage to fisheries' at any time: [ s.10(1)c ]
The interpretation and application of both these two sections above will likely be subject to legal challenge in the near future.
There is currently an extant s.3 conservation order (the Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999), which applies, at present indefinitely, to both gray and common (harbour) seals along the coast between the counties of Northumberland and East Sussex. Under the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 both species of seals are protected in Northern Ireland, throughout the year, from being killed or injured.

EU LAWS is attempting to make a coherent summary of the many varied approaches toward harbor seals taken by national governments within the EU, and that summary will appear here when it is complete. is dedicated to the general well-being of harbor seals and to vigorous enforcement of applicable law for their protection. Alerts will be posted here of documented instances of continued disturbance or threats to harbor seal safety and habitat. Cheers will be posted when new efforts have been made to extend protection.

Updated 1.25.21