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The National Marine Fisheries Service has issued a final rule extending for two years, through Dec. 31, 2025, the exemption period during which seafood import prohibitions under the Marine Mammal Protection Act do not apply.
The MMPA’s import provisions prohibit the import of fish or fish products from commercial fishing operations that result in the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards. Fish and fish products from export and exempt fisheries identified by NMFS in its List of Foreign Fisheries can only be imported into the U.S. if the harvesting nation has applied for and received a comparability finding.
However, in a 2016 rule NMFS established an initial five-year exemption period for foreign nations to develop fishery regulatory programs governing the bycatch of marine mammals that are comparable in effectiveness to U.S. regulations. Imports from harvesting nations are not subject to the prohibitions of the MMPA’s import provisions during this period.
NMFS subsequently extended this exemption period through Dec. 31, 2023, and is now extending it for another two years. NMFS notes that it has received 134 applications for comparability findings involving almost 2,500 foreign fisheries and that it therefore needs more time to complete the evaluation process “given the large number of foreign fisheries, the evolving nature of fisheries data, and the practical challenges of assessing the comparability of the regulatory programs in foreign countries.”
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