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The National Marine Fisheries Service is inviting public comments through Oct. 23 on its draft list of foreign fisheries for 2017, which reflects available information on marine mammal interactions in commercial fisheries exporting fish and fish products to the U.S.
Under the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, fish or fish products cannot be imported into the U.S. from commercial fishing operations that result in the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards. By Jan. 1, 2022, a harvesting nation must apply for and receive a finding that its regulatory program addressing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury is comparable in effectiveness to that of the U.S. for each of its export and exempt fisheries on the LOFF to continue to export fish and fish products from those fisheries to the U.S.
The draft LOFF comprises 138 nations with 720 exempt and 3,270 export fisheries. Exempt fisheries have no known or a remote likelihood of marine mammal bycatch and must therefore meet only those conditions related to the prohibition of intentional killing or injury of marine mammals to receive a comparability finding. Export fisheries have more than a remote likelihood of marine mammal bycatch or insufficient information available on marine mammal interactions and as a result must also maintain regulatory programs comparable in effectiveness to that of the U.S. for reducing incidental marine mammal bycatch.
During a five-year exemption period designed to allow foreign harvesting nations time to develop comparable regulatory programs, NMFS will consult with those nations to inform them of the MMPA requirements. However, if NMFS determines during this time that a marine mammal stock is immediately and significantly adversely affected by an export fishery it may issue an emergency rule to institute an import ban on fish and fish products from that fishery.
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