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.”