The Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service has made findings that will allow imports of fish and fish products from specified fisheries in Mexico during the period Nov. 1, 2018, through Jan. 1, 2022. However, consistent with a Court of International Trade decision in related ongoing litigation, some such imports must be accompanied by a certification of admissibility.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act and NMFS regulations ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish that have been caught with commercial fishing technology that results in the incidental kill or serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of U.S. standards. Effective Jan. 1, 2022, fish and fish products from fisheries identified by the NMFS in a list of foreign fisheries can only be imported if the harvesting nation has applied for and received a comparability finding for those fisheries.

Although there is a five-year exemption period (ending Jan. 1, 2022) before imports will be subject to any trade restrictions, NMFS notes that there is nothing in the regulations that prevents an exporting nation from implementing a bycatch reduction regulatory program and seeking a comparability finding during the exemption period.

Following such a request from Mexico, NMFS has determined that the following fisheries in the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico have met the MMPA’s requirements to receive comparability findings.

- shrimp trawl fishery for both small and large vessels

- shrimp suripera fishery

- sierra purse seine fishery

- sierra hook and line fishery

- chano trawl fishery, for small vessels

- curvina purse seine fishery

- sardine/curvina purse seine fishery for both small and large vessels

However, the Court of International Trade has required the U.S. to ban imports of all fish and fish products from Mexican commercial fisheries that use gillnets within the range of the vaquita, an endangered porpoise, which lies within the Gulf of California. This ban includes all shrimp, curvina, sierra, and chano fish and their products.

In a notice implementing that ban, NMFS also required that all other fish and fish products not within the scope of the import restrictions but imported under the HTSUS numbers associated with the prohibited fish and fish products be accompanied by a certification of admissibility. As a result, imports of sierra, shrimp, chano, and curvina fish and fish products must continue to be accompanied by this certification until further notice.

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