HLA Supports Hawaii Senators' Recommendations for Commerce and State Department MMPA Action

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HLA has written to the Departments of Commerce and State supporting a letter from numerous U.S. Senators, including Hawaii Senators Schatz and Hirono, urging the Departments to take action to implement the importation provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Ac (MMPA).  The Hawaii longline fishery is subject to significant restrictions in part to protect marine mammals, but foreign longline fleets are not subject to similar controls.  The letter from the Senators points out that the MMPA has provisions that have never been implemented to limit imports of fish and fish products from nations that cannot demonstrate that their fleets are subject to regulations that are substantially as effective as the regulations that U.S. fishermen are subject to.  The Senators propose that these import provisions be finalized to level the playing field so that U.S. fisheries (like the Hawaii longline fishery) do not continue to be at a disadvantage relative to their foreign counterparts. 

The full text of the HLA letter follows:


The Honorable Cameron F. Kerry
Acting Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20230

The Honorable Jacob J. Lew
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew,

The Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) is proud to associate itself with the letter sent to you by a number of U.S. Senators, including the honorable Senators Schatz and Hirono of Hawaii, concerning the need for the U.S. Government to take action to establish regulations under the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). 

HLA was formed in the year 2000 to advance the common interest of individuals and entities involved in the offshore longline fishing industry in the Hawaii-Pacific region and to promote participation and input by our industry in fishery conservation and management.  Our members fish for tuna, swordfish and associated species in waters around Hawaii and on the high seas in both the western and eastern Pacific Ocean.  HLA supports the goals of fishery management; HLA recognizes that uncontrolled fishing could threaten the fish stocks on which we depend.  HLA has worked closely with U..S. and State agencies to develop and implement sound regulations to control the fishery as needed.  HLA also appreciates the need to ensure that our members' fishing activities do not have substantial adverse effect on other marine species, including marine mammals.  In this context, like many U.S. fisheries, the Hawaii longline fishery is subject to a number of regulations that significantly reduce fishing opportunities (e.g., by area closures) or increase the cost of fishing activities (e.g., through requirements to use certain gear or techniques) in order to protect these species.  In fact, the Hawaii longline fishery is probably the most heavily regulated longline fishery in the Pacific, with limited entry, reporting and observer requirements, time and area closures, automated vessel monitoring equipment, and gear requirements.  HLA must emphasize that these regulations apply not only in the U.S. exclusive economic zone (200-mile zone) but on the high seas as well. 

Unfortunately, other longline fisheries operating in the Pacific are not similarly regulated.  It must be emphasized that the Hawaii longline fishery is a small player compared to the large Asian fleets which fish with vessels that are generally larger as well.  The HLA recognizes that international collaboration is critical for conservation and management of such species as tuna and swordfish; it is also critical to prevent or mitigate the effects of all longline fisheries on non-fish species, including marine mammals.  U.S. fleets take a very small share of the total catch of most of these species and controlling U.S. fishing alone will have little conservation benefit for fish and non-fish alike.  That international management has been missing for the most part, in spite of efforts by the U.S. to promote conservation and management measures by regional fishery management organizations that to a significant degree control fisheries like the Hawaii longline fishery. 

 As the letter from the distinguished senators indicates, the purposes of the MMPA extend beyond the protection of marine mammals in U.S. waters.  The MMPA was also written to promote such protection globally and to ensure a level playing field to protect U.S. fishermen from unfair international competition.   Section 101(a)(2)(A) calls for the Secretaries of Commerce and the Treasury to ensure that all fish products imported into the U.S. were caught by fisheries subject to requirements for marine mammal protection equivalent to the regulations to which U.S. fisheries are subject.  The MMPA provides that the Secretary of Commerce "shall insist" that any importing nation prove how their fishing methods affect marine mammals, and the Secretary of the Treasury "shall ban the importation" of fish caught by methods that take marine mammals "in excess of United States standards."  This Congressional mandate has existed since 1972; unfortunately, it has yet to be implemented through U.S. Government controls, which means that the U.S. fishing industry has continued to be placed at a competitive disadvantage relative to foreign fisheries.  This is compounded by the continuing growth of some foreign fleets in spite of calls by most regional fishery management organizations to limit the growth of fishing capacity in their waters.

We understand that the National Marine Fisheries Service, on behalf of the Department of Commerce, is developing legal standards to implement the MMPA import provisions.  HLA strongly supports the letter from the distinguished senators encouraging NMFS to promptly propose and finalize these regulations and requesting that Treasury fully enforce the MMPA to protect both U.S. fishermen and marine mammals worldwide.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.


Sean Martin