Unilateral and multilateral approaches to cetacean bycatch management: risk and potential under the U.S. Marine Mammal Import Provisions Rule for IOTC Members
The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act Import Provisions Rule is the first unilateral attempt to address cetacean bycatch at a global level by leveraging the U.S. market. The Rule requires that nations exporting certain fish and fish products to the U.S. apply for a “Comparability Finding” that demonstrates marine mammal bycatch policies are comparable to certain pillars in the U.S. legal scheme for marine mammal bycatch. It holds significant potential to both advance marine mammal conservation but also to disrupt trade of seafood – one of the world’s most highly traded commodities – as well as pose capacity burdens on many nations. The majority of IOTC Members have fisheries listed under the Import Rule, which may offer opportunities for improving bycatch management at the IOTC and vice versa. For some IOTC members, however, the Rule may pose significant financial, scientific, and political challenges for compliance. This paper reviews the scope of the MMPA Import Rule for IOTC Members, particularly for those with gillnet fisheries, and it discusses potential synergies between the Rule and IOTC bycatch reporting and monitoring. This preliminary review is one portion of an ongoing, broader analysis of unilateral and multilateral approaches the bycatch management in the Indian Ocean across multiple scales.