The National Marine Fisheries Service has published its final 2017 list of foreign fisheries, which reflects available information on marine mammal interactions in commercial fisheries exporting fish and fish products to the U.S. Fisheries on the LOFF will have to meet certain regulatory requirements to receive a comparability finding necessary to export fish and fish products to the U.S.

Under NMFS regulations implementing the fish and fish product 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. NMFS regulations also include provisions to ensure that intermediary nations do not import and re-export to the U.S. fish or fishery products that are subject to an import prohibition.

The final LOFF comprises 138 nations with 910 exempt and 2,386 7export 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. Commercial fishing operations not specifically identified on the current LOFF as either exempt or export fisheries will be deemed to be export fisheries until a revised LOFF is posted unless the harvesting nation provides sufficient classification information.

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. NMFS is slated to issue its next draft and final LOFF in 2020.


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