Assembly resolution puts pressure on Feds to enforce Marine Mammal Act
Last month, the California Legislature passed AJR 8, a resolution authored by Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-Carmel), urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to immediately ban imports of foreign-caught swordfish that do not meet federal standards for marine mammal protection.
“By enforcing existing law, the federal government will encourage importers of swordfish to reduce their marine mammal bycatch,” said Assemblymember Monning. “This bill sends a strong message to the federal government to do the right thing.”
Under Section 101 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, any country wishing to export fish products to the United States must provide proof that their fishing practices do not harm or kill marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has not enforced this provision for over 35 years, despite evidence showing that foreign fishing fleets kill hundreds of thousands of marine mammals every year.
Scientists estimate that global fisheries catch approximately 300,000 marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions, each year. Foreign swordfish fleets, which generally use gillnets and longlines, are particularly deadly to marine mammals.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act was designed to ensure that U.S. fishers are not put at a competitive disadvantage to poorly-regulated foreign fleets, and to put market pressure on foreign nations to reduce impacts on marine mammals. Nevertheless, the U.S. government has allowed the importation of swordfish from more than 40 countries without requiring any proof of impacts on marine mammals.
AJR 8 was approved with the goal of building momentum to change federal policy and allow domestic swordfish fishers to compete on an even playing field with foreign importers of swordfish, as well as to protect marine mammals around the world.