Research permits and killer whales in the Caribbean

From: Dagmar Fertl (
Date: Wed Mar 06 2002 - 17:02:54 EST

Q: so, basically what you are saying is that if i studied
a pod of dolphins that passed into 20 or so caribbean
island countries, that (if they required permits) i
would have to obtain one from every country??

there is a pod of orcas that migrates around the
caribbean and maybe into the gulf of mexico and the
bahamas. problem is no one really knows where they go.
so i want to find out. but i can't do that with out
following them or tagging one. but like you said i
can't do that until i have permits. so how to i get
the right permits in the right countries when i don't
even know what islands they pass by??



It sounds to me as though you are planning a project and not putting forth a hypothetical question. I had contacted a colleague at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Office of Protected Resources in Silver Spring, Maryland to get the answer to your original question. You haven't indicated that you are a U.S. citizen, but I suspect you are. You then fall under jurisdiction of U.S. law, specifically, the Marine Mammal Protection Act. As part of the process, you would contact the NMFS and ask for the permitting office. You would fill out a bunch of paperwork, hopefully first talking to someone in that office to get some guidance on the whole procedure. The NMFS is very familiar with the laws of other countries, and therefore, could provide you with helpful guidance as well.

I can understand your frustration and concern about where these whales might move. We can never anticipate fully where a whale might or might not go. You might find some solace (or not, if you're the whale) that the Caribbean really doesn't have any guidelines or permitting in contrast to the U.S. This is probably best illustrated by the fact that people can go swim with humpbacks in the Caribbean, but not in Hawaiian waters.

Hope this helps. If you were to let me know whether your question is truly hypothetical or if you are trying to figure out how to design an actual research study, that would help in my answering your question. Ultimately, this question is best taken up with the NMFS, the agency responsible for permitting questions, and I would hate to tell you something and have it be wrong.



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