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 in August 2016.

Fish school underwater

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 MMPA Import Provisions 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 published a draft List of Foreign Fisheries for comment in August 2017. It 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.


Last updated by Office of International Affairs & Seafood Inspection on April 13, 2020