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*U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Guidance to Clarify the Phrase Significantly Altered*
*For Immediate Release: *November 18, 2013
*Contact: *Andrea Medeiros, 907-786-3695

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued guidance to clarify the
phrase “significantly altered” as it pertains to authentic Native
handicrafts and clothing made from sea otter, a species protected under the
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The intent of the guidance is to
reduce confusion over what this phrase means; it does not change existing
MMPA implementing regulations. The guidance is available on the Web at:

From March 1, 2013 to August 6, 2013, the Service made available for public
comment draft guidance to clarify the phrases: “significantly altered from
their natural form,” “dwells on the coast,” and “large-scale mass
production.” Based on comments received on the draft guidance, the Service
has not finalized the guidance for the latter two phrases and instead has
focused only on clarification of the term “significantly altered.”

The overall intent of the Marine Mammal Protection Act is the protection
and conservation of marine mammals and their habitats. The Act includes a
moratorium on the taking of marine mammals. However, Congress provided
exceptions to the moratorium, including one to allow the non-wasteful
harvest of marine mammals by Alaska Native peoples for subsistence purposes
or for creating handicrafts and clothing. In providing this exception,
Congress recognized the importance of preserving Alaska Native cultural
practices while protecting marine mammals.

Since 1974, Service regulations have defined the phrase authentic Native
articles of handicrafts and clothing as items made by Alaska Native peoples
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. The requirement that items made from sea otter be
significantly altered from their natural form applies only to items that
are sold or transferred to non-Native Alaskans.