The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued Nov. 28 a ruling upholding a ban on imports from Mexico of fish and fish products harvested by gillnets in the upper Gulf of California within the geographic range of the vaquita, an endangered porpoise. This ban covers all shrimp, curvina, sierra, and chano fish and fish products but exempts fisheries for curvina and sierra using actively deployed gear. All other fish and fish products not within the scope of these import restrictions but imported under the same published HTSUS numbers must be accompanied by a certification of admissibility.

The ban was imposed as of Aug. 24 by the Department of Commerce following a decision by the Court of International Trade to grant a preliminary injunction pending final adjudication of a case seeking to force the DOC to implement a ban. The petitioners in that case blame gillnet bycatch for a 95 percent decline in the vaquita population over the last two decades and maintain that any fishery using gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California violates U.S. standards under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The CIT agreed, stating that the purpose of the MMPA is the preservation of marine mammal species and that the ban is legally required under the imports provision of that law because the number of permissible vaquita deaths is being exceeded and the species is at risk of extinction.

Press reports note that the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, and the Treasury have each tried to modify or terminate the ban in court but have thus far been unsuccessful. There was no immediate indication of how federal officials may proceed after the most recent CAFC ruling.

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