Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), originally passed in 1918, implements the United States' commitment to four bilateral treaties, or conventions, for the protection of a shared migratory bird resource. The original treaty upon which the MBTA was passed was the Convention for the protection of Migratory Birds signed with Great Britain in 1916 on behalf of Canada for the protection "of the many species of birds that traverse certain parts of the United States and Canada in their annual migration." The primary motivation for negotiation of the 1916 treaty and the passage of the MBTA was to stop the "indiscriminate slaughter" of migratory birds by market hunters and others. The MBTA was subsequently amended as treaties were signed with Mexico (1936, amended 1972 and 1999), Japan (1972), and Russia (1976). The Canadian treaty was amended in December 1995 to allow traditional subsistence hunting of migratory birds.

Each of the treaties protects selected species of birds and provides for closed and open seasons for hunting game birds. The MBTA protects over 800 species of birds by implementing the 4 treaties within the United States. The list of migratory bird species protected by the MBTA appears in Title 50, section 10.13, of the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 10.13).

The MBTA provides that it is unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, possess, sell, purchase, barter, import, export, or transport any migratory bird, or any part, nest, or egg or any such bird, unless authorized under a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior. Some regulatory exceptions apply. Take is defined in regulations as: “pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect.” The MBTA protects over 800 species of birds that occur in the U.S.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with USFWS

In 2009, BOEM (then MMS) entered into a MOU with USFWS to “strengthen migratory bird conservation through enhanced collaboration between the MMS and the FWS.” In assessing impacts to and protecting biological resources, BOEM consults with the FWS on activities that may affect threatened and endangered species. BOEM also evaluates the effects on migratory birds and important habitats such as offshore and nearshore foraging, staging, molting, and roosting habitats. BOEM regularly conducts studies that provide information for protection and conservation of migratory birds, including protected species. It is in the interests of both agencies that potential impacts be thoroughly assessed and that mitigation measures be considered and implemented as appropriate.

BOEM uses the NEPA process to evaluate potential impacts of proposed actions and alternatives, including impacts to migratory birds and their habitats. The potential impacts on migratory birds associated with offshore development may include direct effects such as the possibility of attraction to and collision with structures. For example, large numbers of migratory birds have been observed to be attracted to offshore structures and should be evaluated due to potential for collision. Indirect effects may include potential habitat loss through displacement or disturbance. Accidents, such as oil spills, can have short-term, acute and long-term, chronic effects on migratory birds and their habitats.