WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced they have received a petition for emergency rulemaking from Sea Shepherd. The petition seeks to ban imports of fish and fish products from New Zealand – specifically those imports not satisfying the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
The petition was submitted in hopes of protecting the Māui dolphin.
The U.S. Department of Commerce was specifically petitioned “to ban importation of commercial fish or products from fish that have been caught with commercial fishing technology that results in incidental mortality or serious injury of Māui dolphin in excess of United States standards,” the notice of rulemaking stated.
Those campaigning NOAA to protect the Maui dolphin stated: “The petition requested that the relevant secretary ban the importation of all fish and fish products caught in set nets or trawls inside the Māui dolphin’s range and from either the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island or the Cook Strait, unless affirmatively identified as having been caught with a gear type other than set nets or trawls or affirmatively identified as caught outside the Māui dolphin’s range.”
Petitioners stated the Māui dolphin population was at 2,000-some in 1971 but dropped to 111 in 2004 and 55 in 2011.
“The petitioners maintain that any fishery using set nets, trawls, or gillnets in the Māui dolphin range along the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island violates U.S. standards under the MMPA. The petitioners provide a list of 11 fish species harvested within the Māui dolphin range by set nets, trawls, or gillnets that are potentially imported into the U.S. as fish or fish products,” the formal petition stated, according to NMFS.
Comments on the petition must be submitted by 5 p.m., Eastern Time, on March 27. Contact Nina Young at NMFS for more information; her email is Nina.Young@noaa.gov. She can also be reached by phone at 301-427-8383.