On August 15, 2016, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), published in the Federal Register a final rule [Docket No. 0907301201–6406–03] that implements the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The rule establishes conditions for evaluating a harvesting nation’s regulatory program to address incidental and measures to address intentional mortality and serious injury of marine mammals in fisheries that export fish and fish products to the United States. Under the rule, fish and fish products from fisheries identified by the Assistant Administrator in the List of Foreign Fisheries can only be imported into the United States if the harvesting nation has applied for and received a comparability finding from NMFS. The rule establishes procedures that a harvesting nation must follow and conditions to meet, to receive a comparability finding for a fishery. The rule also establishes provisions for intermediary nations to ensure that intermediary nations do not import, and re-export to the United States, fish or fish products subject to an import prohibition. Agency actions and recommendations under this rule will be in accordance with U.S. obligations under applicable international law, including, among others, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement. The final rule is effective on January 1, 2017.
On the same day the NMFS/NOAA also published in the Federal Register a proposed List of Fisheries (LOF) for 2017 [Docket No. 160219129–6129–01], as required by the MMPA. The proposed LOF for 2017 reflects new information on interactions between commercial fisheries and marine mammals. NMFS must classify each commercial fishery on the LOF into one of three categories under the MMPA based upon the level of mortality and serious injury of marine mammals that occurs incidental to each fishery. The classification of a fishery on the LOF determines whether participants in that fishery are subject to certain provisions of the MMPA, such as registration, observer coverage, and take reduction plan (TRP) requirements. Comments must be received by September 14, 2016.