Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Protection Urged for Marine Mammals In Foreign Fisheries

By Margaret Bauman

The Natural Resources Defense Council says commercial harvests of some of Americans’ favorite foreign seafood imports pose a lethal threat to thousands of marine mammals, but that there’s a way to stop that.

The deaths and serious injuries of more than 650,000 marine mammals annually in foreign fisheries could be prevented by enforcement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the international environmental organization said in a document released Jan. 7. “Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries” is online at

Foreign harvests of wild caught shrimp, tuna, crab, lobster and salmon most enjoyed by Americans present a particularly significant risk to marine mammals due to dangerous fishing practices associated with them abroad, the report said, with marine mammals being hooked, entangled or trapped in fishing gear.

Until the US enforces the law, requiring importing countries to prove they are meeting American standards, consumers can help protect whales, dolphins and sea lions by choosing American-caught seafood, NRDC said.

According to Jessica Lass, senior press officer for NRDC, the organization has not engaged on this subject with US importers of foreign seafood, but would be happy to do so.

“US importers can play an important role by working with suppliers to ensure they are meeting all of the laws applicable to their imports, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act’s provision on foreign commercial fisheries bycatch,” Lass said.

“While there will undoubtedly be a phase in period when this law get s enforced, at some point imports should be barred from entry if they do not meet US bycatch standards. Importers who wish to maintain supplies and assure the American public that their product didn’t kill or injure whales, dolphins, sea lions and other marine mammals in excess of US standards will work with suppliers and the government to comply with the law.”

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