The National Marine Fisheries Service has received a petition asking it to ban imports of certain fish and fish products from Mexico. Comments on this petition are due no later than Sept. 21.

In August 2016 NMFS published a final rule that established conditions for evaluating a harvesting nation’s regulatory programs to address incidental and intentional mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in fisheries operated by nations that export fish and fish products to the U.S. In that rule NMFS stated that it may consider emergency rulemaking to ban imports of fish and fish products from an export or exempt fishery having or likely to have an immediate and significant adverse impact on a marine mammal stock.

On May 18 NMFS received a petition requesting that it initiate such an emergency rulemaking to ban imports of fish or products from fish originating from the range of the vaquita (a rare species of porpoise) in the northern Gulf of California that were obtained using any kind of gillnet. The petition blames gillnet bycatch for a 95 percent decline in the vaquita population over the last two decades and maintains that any fishery using gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California violates U.S. standards under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

In considering this petition NMFS is specifically requesting comments on the adequacy of existing measures regulating commercial fishing throughout the range of the vaquita, whether such measures can be considered comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program, whether the apparent decline in the vaquita population attributed to interaction with commercial fishing meets the standard of “immediate and significant adverse impact on a marine mammal stock” within the MMPA, and which specific fisheries are or may be directly associated with potential mortality of vaquita and therefore fall within the scope of the petition.

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