A Comparative Methodology of the Research Permit Process under the NMSA and MMPA

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Permits for protected species have become a fundamental part of conserving various marine ecosystems. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) designates protected marine areas of national importance to prioritize conservation, scientific research, cultural significance and environmental education. Activities that are potentially harmful to the environment are prohibited within designated sanctuaries; however, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the authority to issue permits authorizing activities that would otherwise be prohibited under NMSA. Each proposed activity must advance the mission of the sanctuary system, which, in the case of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), includes restoration and research activities. However, several inefficiencies persist within the permit authorization process that can cause significant delays to activities that are aligned with Sanctuary goals. To assess the extent of these inefficiencies, my masters project provides a comparative analysis between the permitting process for research activities under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), another major piece of legislation geared towards marine ecosystem protection. I conducted a series of interviews with permit coordinators, directors and applicants in parallel with a literature review of both Acts. Following this deep dive into the permit process, I made a series of recommendations for NMSA permits to streamline the process. Additionally, as a supplemental part of my master’s project, I worked with NOAA’s Mission: Iconic Reef team to create a StoryMap for their website. This StoryMap will be used to help celebrate the one year anniversary of the Mission: Iconic Reefs Project and their commitment towards furthering the goals of FKNMS through education and stewardship while protecting coral reefs in the Florida Keys.





Corcoran, Kimberly (2021). A Comparative Methodology of the Research Permit Process under the NMSA and MMPA. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22653.

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