The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a final rule that, effective Jan. 1, 2017, will revise its regulations to implement the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA states that under this rule U.S. trading partners will need to show that killing or injuring marine mammals incidental to fishing activities (bycatch) in their export fisheries do not exceed U.S. standards. There will be an initial five-year exemption period to give nations time to assess their marine mammal stocks and estimate and lower their bycatch.

Among other things, this rule does the following.

- establishes procedures and conditions for evaluating a harvesting nation’s regulatory program addressing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury in fisheries that export fish and fish products to the U.S. to determine if it is comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. regulatory program (even if it uses different mechanisms)

- requires harvesting nations to apply for and receive, every four years (after the initial five year exemption period), a comparability finding for each fishery identified by NOAA in the List of Foreign Fisheries to export fish and fish products to the U.S.

- establishes procedures that a harvesting nation must follow and conditions it must meet to receive a comparability finding

- bans imports of fish and fish products from fisheries that do not receive a comparability finding or have had a previous finding terminated

- allows NMFS to consider, during the initial five-year exemption period, an emergency ban on imports of fish and fish products from an export or exempt fishery that are having or are likely to have an immediate and significant adverse impact on a marine mammal stock

- establishes provisions for intermediary nations to ensure that they do not import and reexport to the U.S. fish or fish products subject to an import prohibition

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