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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 Republic of Ecuador under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This affirmative finding renewal will allow yellowfin tuna and yellowfin tuna products harvested in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP), in compliance with the International Dolphin Conservation Program (IDCP) by Ecuadorian-flag purse seine vessels or vessels operating under Ecuadorian jurisdiction, to continue to be imported into the United States. The affirmative finding renewal was based on review of documentary evidence submitted by the Republic of Ecuador and obtained from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Department of State. This finding remains in effect through March 31, 2005.

DATES:

Effective April 1, 2004, through March 31, 2005.

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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., allows entry into the United States of yellowfin tuna harvested by purse seine vessels in the ETP under certain conditions. Under implementing regulations at 50 CFR 216.24, a nation with purse seine vessels greater than 400 short tons (362.8 metric tons) carrying capacity fishing for tuna in the ETP must have an affirmative finding in order to export such tuna and tuna products to the United States. 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. The finding will be reviewed annually to ensure that the nation continues to meet the requirements for an affirmative finding. The requirements must be met in order for the finding to remain valid for the following 12-month period: April 1 through March 31, or for such other period as the Assistant Administrator may determine.

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 opt to provide information regarding compliance with the IDCP directly to NMFS on an annual basis or to 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 which diminish 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 Republic of Ecuador and obtained from the IATTC and the Department of State and determined that Ecuador has met the MMPA's requirements to receive an affirmative finding.

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

The Republic of Ecuador must submit a new application no later than January 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: November 9, 2004.

Rebecca Lent,

Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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[FR Doc. 04-25315 Filed 11-12-04; 8:45 am]

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