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International Marine Mammal Bycatch Criteria for U.S. Imports

The Import Provisions aim to reduce marine mammal bycatch associated with international commercial fishing operations, requiring foreign fisheries exporting fish and fish products to the United States to have standards comparable in effectiveness.


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.  

The import provisions implement 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 import provisions also establish 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 import provisions established a five year exemption period to allow foreign harvesting nations time to develop, as appropriate, regulatory programs that compare in effectiveness to U.S. programs. Comparability findings ensure that foreign nations’ bycatch programs meet U.S. standards as a condition to allow import of the fish and fish products from these fisheries.

Extension of Deadline

On November 16, 2023, the Department of Commerce and NMFS issued a Federal Register notice extending the exemption period by two years, to December 31, 2025, for foreign nations to receive a Comparability Finding for their commercial fishing operations to export fish and fish products to the United States - a revision to the regulations implementing the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Following careful consideration, the Department of Commerce and NMFS have concluded that additional time is required to effectively complete the evaluation process. This decision is influenced by the considerable number of foreign fisheries, the evolving nature of fisheries data, and the practical challenges associated with assessing the comparability of regulatory programs in foreign countries.

List of Foreign Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries' List of Foreign Fisheries contains foreign commercial fisheries that export fish and fish products to the United States and that have been classified as either “export” or “exempt” based on the frequency and likelihood of incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals.

Last updated by Office of International Affairs, Trade, and Commerce on November 16, 2023