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NOAA Fisheries Establishes International Marine Mammal Bycatch Criteria for U.S. Imports

NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule implementing import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in August 2016.

The United States is a global leader in marine mammal conservation and sustainable fisheries, with U.S. fisheries abiding by some of the world’s most robust conservation practices, including measures to reduce marine mammal bycatch—a global threat to many populations of marine mammals.  

This rule implements aspects of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that aim to reduce marine mammal bycatch associated with international commercial fishing operations, by requiring nations exporting fish and fish products to the United States to be held to the same standards as U.S. commercial fishing operations.

The rule also establishes the criteria for evaluating a harvesting nation’s regulatory program for reducing marine mammal bycatch and the procedures required to receive authorization to import fish and fish products into the United States. To ensure effective implementation, the rule establishes a 5 year exemption period to allow foreign harvesting nations time to develop, as appropriate, regulatory programs comparable in effectiveness to U.S. programs.

NOAA Fisheries has a long history of working collaboratively with other nations to address international marine mammal conservation, and has provided technical assistance to other countries in support of their marine mammal conservation efforts. This rule marks a significant step forward in the global conservation of marine mammals and expanding international collaboration for best stewardship.

NOAA Fisheries filed a Federal Register Notice seeking information on foreign commercial fishing operations that export fish and fish products to the United States and the level of incidental and intentional mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in those fisheries in January 2017.

Resource Materials

Public Engagement

NOAA Fisheries' Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection hosted a series of public webinar meetings to further engage with interested stakeholders about this regulation and its implications. Materials from those webinars will be posted below:

MMPA Import Final Rule Presentation (PDF)          
September 12, 2016        Audio             Transcript (PDF)
September 13, 2016:       Audio             Transcript (PDF)
September 20, 2016        Audio             Transcript  (PDF)
September 21, 2016:       Audio             Transcript  (PDF)