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Permits: Frequently Asked Questions

When is a permit required?
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A permit is required whenever an individual wishes to conduct an activity within a sanctuary that would otherwise be prohibited by sanctuary regulations.  Find a list of sanctuary prohibitions here.



What types of activities can be permitted?
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The types of activities able to be permitted vary by site but typically include research, education, and management activities, among others.  Applicants should check with sanctuary staff to ensure their activity is able to be permitted.

How do I obtain a permit?
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An ONMS permit application must be completed.  A complete permit application will include the required information as described in Part II of these instructions, including sufficient detail so that a reasonably educated non-specialist can understand what you are proposing.  If a funding application, work plan, or similar document already exists, then elements of that proposal may be excerpted and pasted into the application, or attached as supplemental information. The amount and depth of information to be given in an application depends on the complexity of the proposed activity.  Note that more or less information may be required for certain permit types.



When should I apply?
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Permit applications must be submitted at least thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the requested effective date to allow time for evaluation and processing.  Sensitive or complicated requests, requests for collection of sensitive species, or requests which may require the ONMS to undertake certain NEPA or consultation requirements should be submitted at least ninety (90) calendar days in advance, if not sooner.  Applications that may require ONMS to prepare an environmental impact statement prior to issuance will typically require at least twelve (12) months to process.  In order to expedite processing, applicants are encouraged to contact the appropriate sanctuary staff well in advance of submitting a formal application to discuss any questions or issues they feel may complicate or delay the application process.  Applications not received within the time frames specified above are not guaranteed to be processed before the requested effective date.



How do I apply?
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Permit applications can be obtained from any sanctuary office or online.



Where do I apply?
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The completed permit application and any supplemental materials should be submitted to the office for the sanctuary in which you plan to conduct the activity.  Completed applications can be submitted via email (preferred) or via mail or fax.  Click here (pdf) for a list of sanctuary offices and staff contacts.  For activities proposed to take place in multiple sanctuaries, a “lead” sanctuary office may be designated to handle the application.



Are there situations when I don’t need to complete the regular permit application or need to submit additional information?
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Yes. Permit applications for some activities may require less information or an expanded application. Other activities have additional guidance that applies. For details see the links or guidance here.



How are permit applications evaluated?
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Permit applications are typically processed in the order received.  They are first reviewed for completeness and adherence to these instructions.  Applicants will be contacted for clarification or if applications are incomplete, or otherwise not in compliance with these instructions, within twenty (20) calendar days of receipt of the application.  If sanctuary staff requests such additional information, and no response has been received from the applicant within ninety (90) calendar days, the application will be deemed withdrawn, no further action will be taken on the application by the ONMS, and any application for this activity will have to be resubmitted by the applicant as a new request.

Complete applications are reviewed by ONMS staff and may be peer-reviewed by outside experts.  ONMS staff will also initiate any actions required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other laws, regulations, and policies.  Permits will not be issued until these requirements are fulfilled.  There may be situations when the NEPA process or certain consultations cannot be completed prior to the applicant’s requested start date.  ONMS staff will notify the applicant as soon as possible when that is the case.

Based on reviews of the application and following fulfillment of any legal and regulatory requirements, the ONMS will approve or deny the permit.  If approved, the sanctuary superintendent will issue the permit.  If denied, the sanctuary superintendent will notify the applicant of the reason(s) for denial and inform them of the appeal process. 



What conditions will be placed on my permit?
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ONMS regulations allow permits to include conditions to protect sanctuary resources and qualities.  A list of permit general conditions can be found on the sanctuary website.  Permits will also include special conditions unique to each activity that describe activity limitations, any required monitoring, reporting requirements, etc.



Once I receive a permit, what do I do?
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If your application is approved and a permit is issued, you will receive a copy of the permit via mail or electronic means to sign and return to sanctuary staff.  You must carry a copy of the approved permit at all times while performing your activities in the sanctuary.



Will I be required to submit a report?
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Most permits will require the permittee to submit reports documenting activities conducted under the permit.  Depending on the activity, such reports may include (but are not limited to) interim and final reports, cruise or flight logs, catch logs, and sample/collection logs.  For most permits, these reports will generally be 1-2 pages in length, although complex activities may call for more extensive documentation.  Information required to be included in these reports will vary according to the activity being permitted, but will generally include a brief summary of actions undertaken, field work dates and locations, any results or findings, appropriate charts or photos, samples and collections taken, and any deviations from the planned activity.



How do I extend, renew, or change a permit?
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Once a permit has been issued, changes can be made in the form of an amendment.  Requests for amendments (e.g., requests to change the activity location or extend the expiration date) must conform to these guidelines.  Persons desiring to continue permitted activities in the sanctuary must request an extension of their current permit at least thirty (30) calendar days before it expires.  Reference to the original application may be given in lieu of a new application, provided the scope of work does not change significantly and any required reports pertinent to the original permit have been submitted to and approved by ONMS staff.  Note: requests for amendments not received within the time frame specified above are not guaranteed to be processed before the requested effective date.  In addition, expired permits cannot be amended.



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