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Notice

Taking and Importing of Marine Mammals

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION:

Notice of affirmative finding renewal.

SUMMARY:

The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NMFS, (Assistant Administrator) renewed the affirmative finding for the Government of Mexico under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This affirmative finding renewal will allow yellowfin tuna harvested in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP) in compliance with the International Dolphin Conservation Program (IDCP) by Mexican-flag purse seine vessels or purse seine vessels operating under Mexican jurisdiction to continue to be imported into the United States. The affirmative finding renewal was based on review of documentary evidence submitted by the Government of Mexico and obtained from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Department of State.

DATES:

Effective April 1, 2003, through March 31, 2004.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Regional Administrator, Southwest Region, NMFS, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, California, 90802-4213; Phone 562-980-4000; Fax 562-980-4018.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The MMPA, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., as amended by the International Dolphin Conservation Program Act (IDCPA) (Public Law 105-42), allows the entry into the United States of yellowfin tuna harvested by purse seine vessels in the ETP under certain conditions. If requested by the harvesting nation, the Assistant Administrator will determine whether to make an affirmative finding based upon documentary evidence provided by the government of the harvesting nation, the IATTC, or the Department of State. A finding will remain valid for 1 year (April 1 through March 31) or for such other period as the Assistant Administrator may determine. An affirmative finding applies to yellowfin tuna and tuna products that were harvested in the ETP by purse seine vessels under the jurisdiction of the nation after March 3, 1999, the effective date of the IDCPA.

The affirmative finding process requires that the harvesting nation meet several conditions related to compliance with the IDCP. Every 5 years, the government of the harvesting nation must request an affirmative finding and submit the required documentary evidence directly to the Assistant Administrator. A nation may provide information regarding compliance with the IDCP directly to NMFS on an annual basis or may authorize the IATTC to release the information to NMFS in years when NMFS will review and consider whether to issue an affirmative finding determination without an application from the harvesting nation.

An affirmative finding will be terminated, in consultation with the Secretary of State, if the Assistant Administrator determines that the requirements of 50 CFR 216.24(f) are no longer being met or that a nation is consistently failing to take enforcement actions on violations, thereby diminishing the effectiveness of the IDCP. Every 5 years, the government of the harvesting nation must request an affirmative finding and submit the required documentary evidence directly to the Assistant Administrator.

As a part of the annual review process set forth in 50 CFR 216.24(f), the Assistant Administrator considered documentary evidence submitted by the Government of Mexico or obtained from the IATTC and the Department of State and determined that Mexico has met the MMPA's requirements to receive an affirmative finding.

After consultation with the Department of State, NMFS renewed the Government of Mexico's affirmative finding allowing the continued importation into the United States of yellowfin tuna and products derived from yellowfin tuna harvested in the ETP after March 3, 1999, by Mexican-flag purse seine vessels or purse seine vessels operating under Mexican jurisdiction.

In 2004, the Assistant Administrator will determine whether the Government of Mexico is meeting the requirements under section 101 (a)(2)(B) and (C) of the MMPA. If necessary, documentary evidence may also be requested from the Government of Mexico to determine whether the affirmative finding criteria are being met. In order for the affirmative finding for the Government of Mexico to be renewed after NMFS's annual review in 2004, the Government of Mexico must submit a new application in early 2005 for an affirmative finding to be effective for the period April 1, 2005, through March 31, 2006, and the subsequent 4 years.

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Dated: February 3, 2004.

Wanda L. Cain,

Acting Director, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 04-2716 Filed 2-6-04; 8:45 am]

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