Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on January 8, 2014

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): ”Few realize it, but nearly every foreign fish product sold in the United States enters the U.S. market in violation of federal law. from the cod and haddock that go into the fish sticks enjoyed by children to the sea bass served at fine restaurants, if it was imported, it probably entered this country illegally. The reason is simple: The Marine Mammal protection act (MMpa) requires that all imported fish or fish products be accompanied by proof that the technology used to land the catch does not kill or seriously injure whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals in excess of U.S. standards. Collecting dust for more than 40 years, this measure has never been enforced by the federal government, with predictable results: foreign fisheries fail to invest in measures limiting harm to whales and dolphins; U.S. fisheries, which do make these investments, are placed at a disadvantage; and americans unwittingly consume foreign fish or fish products caught using techniques that needlessly kill a multitude of marine mammals each year.  The numbers are staggering: Scientists estimate that more than 650,000 marine mammals are killed or seriously injured every year in foreign fisheries after being hooked or entangled or trapped in fishing gear. Some of the harm is intentional—as is the case when fishing fleets using massive gillnets set upon dolphins as indicators that fish are present—while other harm is incidental, as when North Atlantic right whales are entangled in crab and lobster pots. This unintentional capture of animals in fishing gear, or bycatch, is pushing some marine mammal populations to the brink of extinction. And it is unacceptable, given the global importance of marine mammals and the availability of various technologies and methods for reducing harm.”

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