Bycatch criteria for US imports introduced

Nations exporting fish and fish products to the United States will now have to meet fishing standards for protecting marine mammals equal to those American fishermen follow, under a final rule published by NOAA Fisheries.

US trade partners will need to show that bycatch in their export fisheries do not exceed US standards.

“Establishing these bycatch criteria mark a significant step forward in the global conservation of marine mammals,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.

The rule implements “Marine Mammal Protection Act” requirements, outlines ways to evaluate a nation’s marine mammal bycatch reduction efforts, and sets procedures a nation must follow to receive authorisation for sending its products into the United States.

NOAA Fisheries has said it will consult with harvesting nations and, to the extent possible, work with them to build their capacity to meet the rule’s standards.

The rule takes effect on January 1, and establishes a one-time-only, initial five-year exemption period to give nations time to assess their marine mammal stocks, and estimate and lower their bycatch.