August 29, 2010
Director Rebecca Lent
Office of International Affairs
Attn: MMPA Fish Import Provisions
National Marine Fisheries Service, F/IA
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
RE: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Implementation of Fish and Fish Product Import Provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, RIN 0648-AY15
Dear Director Lent,
Turtle Island Restoration Network, Center for Biological Diversity and the following organizations are writing to express our support for developing regulations to bring all imported fish and fish products into immediate compliance with provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) as proposed in the federal advanced notice of proposed rulemaking now underway [RIN 0648-AY15 Implementation of Fish and Fish Product Import Provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.]
Specifically, Section 101(a)(2) of the MMPA [ 16 U.S.C. § 1371(a)(2)], requires that the U.S. “ban the importation of commercial fish or fish products that have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of marine mammals in excess of United States standards.”
For all fisheries, we support the immediate adoption of existing MMPA standards [Option 1] as the primary U. S. standards that all imported fisheries must meet. While we support consideration of threatened and endangered species protection as a means to prioritize protective measures, we believe that the MMPA provides the most relevant standards, including the zero mortality rate goal and potential biological removal, that Congress intended for exporting nations to meet.
While we support the effort to bring all imported fish and fish products into immediate compliance with provisions of the MMPA, we urge NMFS to prioritize the fisheries by level of marine mammal and total bycatch. In particular, we urge NMFS to ban imported swordfish until such time as nations can provide documentation that their fishery meets U. S. standards under the MMPA.
All nations that export seafood to the U. S. must provide data on marine mammal bycatch and have a monitoring program in place. The proposed consultation process with exporting nations, to be undertaken before a ban is put into place, needs to be reasonable, brief, and finite.
We appreciate that NMFS is now taking the first steps towards developing regulations to ensure that all seafood sold in the U.S. meets or exceeds domestic standards for protecting marine mammals from being harmed or killed as bycatch in commercial fisheries.
These long overdue steps to comply with the MMPA are critical to achieving global marine mammal conservation, protecting domestic fishing interests, and ensuring that concerned U.S. consumers do not unwittingly contribute to the demise of marine mammals in foreign fisheries.
We urge you move expeditiously into full rulemaking in order to implement the provisions of the MMPA as required by law. Thank you for your consideration and response to our comments.