Under a final rule published August 11 by NOAA, nations exporting fish and fish products to the United States will have to meet fishing standards for protecting marine mammals equal to those American fishermen follow.

U.S. trade partners will need to show that killing or injuring marine mammals incidental to fishing activities, or bycatch, in their export fisheries do not exceed U.S. standards.

Foreign trade partners will need to prove that their marine mammal bycatch numbers meet U.S. standards. NOAA photo.“Fishing gear entanglements or accidental catch is a global threat to marine mammal populations,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NMFS administrator in a press release. “Establishing these bycatch criteria mark a significant step forward in the global conservation of marine mammals.”

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 authorization for sending their products into the United States.

“The United States is already a global leader in marine mammal conservation and sustainable, resilient fisheries,” said Sobeck. “This rule demonstrates progressive global conservation and expands international collaboration for best stewardship.”

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.

More information on the rule can be found on the NOAA website.


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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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