USA: Trade court deal to help marine mammals worldwideFRISCO — In what conservation advocates are calling a landmark settlement, the U.S. government this week agreed to implement a long-ignored provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that will require foreign fisheries to meet the same standards required of U.S. fishermen or be denied import privileges.
“The new regulations will force oth…er countries to step up and meet U.S. conservation standards — saving hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney and international program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be dolphin-safe,” Uhlemann said.
Each year more than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear. These animals are unintentional “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown outright or are tossed overboard to die from their injuries.
Despite U.S. efforts to protect marine mammals in its own waters, fishing gear continues to pose the most significant threat to whale and dolphin conservation worldwide. For example, the critically imperiled vaquita — the world’s smallest porpoise — is being driven extinct by shrimp gillnets in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Fewer than 100 vaquita remain.
But under U.S. law and new regulations, shrimp from this region would be barred from entering the United States as it does not meet the more protective U.S. marine mammal protection standards. These standards may include modifying fishing gear and closing fishing in some areas to limit the risk of entanglement.
Image: Vaquita caught in nets, via nationalgeographic.com