To save whales and dolphins, Congress asks Obama Admin to flex their legal muscles

Congressional Representatives from key coastal fishing states are urging federal fishery managers from the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) to take quick action on new regulations for imported seafood by enforcing Section 101(a)(2) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

This action is overdue and absolutely necessary to protect marine mammals around the world. It is essential that Congress urges NMFS to move quickly on implementing these new rules which will protect thousands of dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other marine wildlife. Click here to read the press release and here to read the letter from Congress. 

At issue is a never–enforced provision of the MMPA, which requires the United States to ban fish imported from foreign countries whose fishing practices harm and kill more marine mammals than allowed by U.S. standards. Unfortunately, the United States has failed to enforce the law and, over the years, has imported swordfish without gathering adequate information about nations' fishing practices and their effects on marine mammals.

By failing to enforce the law, the U.S. government has allowed poorly regulated fisheries to sell their catch alongside that of law-abiding American fisheries. Not only does this ignore the law, it also promotes the destruction of marine mammal populations -- thousands of marine mammals die every year in gillnets and longlines intended for swordfish and other fish.

A formal petition was filed in March 2008 asking NMFS to enforce the MMPA and ban swordfish imports until foreign fishing vessels employ the same measures to protect marine wildlife that are required of U.S. fishermen.  In April 2009, NMFS issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to define U. S. standards and describe procedures for enforcing those standards for protecting marine mammals under the MMPA.  The public comment period ended in August 2009, and NMFS is hopefully preparing to begin formal rulemaking at this very moment.

It is imperative that NMFS act quickly to enforce Section 101(a)(2) of the MMPA.  Enforcement of the law is a win-win situation for everyone – a win for U.S. fishermen who must compete with poorly regulated international fishing fleets; a win for American consumers who do not want to unwittingly reward the wasteful, bad practices of some foreign fishermen by purchasing their products; and, most important, a win for protecting the 300,000 marine mammals that are killed every year at the end of fishing hooks or in the throes of fishing nets.  It will also move the international fishing industry one step further to developing practices that will contribute to – rather than detract from – our global efforts to protect marine mammals.