Background

The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued a final rule extending for one year, through Dec. 31, 2023, the exemption period during which seafood import prohibitions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act do not apply. NMFS believes this extension will reduce further disruptions to trade and additional burdens on the supply chain.

The MMPA’s import provisions prohibit the import of fish or fish products from commercial fishing operations that result in the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards. Fish and fish products from export and exempt fisheries identified by NMFS in its List of Foreign Fisheries can only be imported into the U.S. if the harvesting nation has applied for and received a comparability finding.

However, in a 2016 rule NMFS established an initial five-year exemption period for foreign nations to develop fishery regulatory programs governing the bycatch of marine mammals that are comparable in effectiveness to U.S. regulations. Imports from harvesting nations are not subject to the prohibitions of the MMPA’s import provisions during this period.

NMFS previously extended this exemption period through Dec. 31, 2022, and is now extending it for another year “due to delays in administrative actions attributable to diversion of governmental resources in response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”

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