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 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 Import Provisions 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 Import Provisions established 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' List of Foreign Fisheries lists 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. The entire list of these export and exempt fisheries, organized by nation (or subsidiary jurisdiction), constitutes the List of Foreign Fisheries.
Extension of deadline
NOAA Fisheries recently announced an interim final rule to provide a one-year extension to foreign nations to apply for and receive a comparability finding for their commercial fishing operations to export fish and fish products to the United States.
Under previous deadlines, comparability findings for all fisheries on the List of Foreign Fisheries needed to be conducted within eight months of their application–an insufficient amount of time given the nearly 3,000 fisheries that must be evaluated. Additionally, because of the coronavirus pandemic, many nations are experiencing delays or significant interruptions in the development and implementation of their programs to comply with the MMPA Import Provisions.
With the extension, nations now have until November 30, 2021, to submit their comparability finding applications; and until December 31, 2022, to receive a comparability finding for their commercial fishing operations in order to export fish and fish products to the United States.