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Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science; Certifications Pursuant to Section 609 of Public Law 101-162

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On May 1, 2009, the Department of State certified, pursuant to Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 (“Section 609”), that 15 nations have adopted programs to reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in their shrimp fisheries comparable to the program in effect in the United States. The Department also certified that the fishing environments in 24 other countries and one economy, Hong Kong, do not pose a threat of the incidental taking of sea turtles protected under Section 609. Shrimp imports from any nation not certified were prohibited effective May 1, 2009 pursuant to Section 609.


Effective Date: On Publication.

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James J. Hogan, III, Office of Marine Conservation, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-7818; telephone: (202) 647-2252.

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Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 prohibits imports of certain categories of shrimp unless the President certifies to the Congress not later than May 1 of each year either: (1) That the harvesting nation has adopted a program governing the incidental capture of sea turtles in its commercial shrimp fishery comparable to the program in effect in the United States and has an incidental take rate comparable to that of the United States; or (2) that the fishing environment in the harvesting nation does not pose a threat of the incidental taking of sea turtles. The President has delegated the authority to make this certification to the Department of State. Revised State Department guidelines for making the required certifications were published in the Federal Register on July 2, 1999 (Vol. 64, No. 130, Public Notice 3086).

On May 1, 2009, the Department certified 15 nations on the basis that Start Printed Page 21049their sea turtle protection programs are comparable to that of the United States: Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Suriname, and Venezuela.

The Department also certified 24 shrimp harvesting nations and one economy as having fishing environments that do not pose a danger to sea turtles. Sixteen nations have shrimping grounds only in cold waters where the risk of taking sea turtles is negligible. They are: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Eight nations and one economy only harvest shrimp using small boats with crews of less than five that use manual rather than mechanical means to retrieve nets, or catch shrimp using other methods that do not threaten sea turtles. Use of such small-scale technology does not adversely affect sea turtles. The eight nations and one economy are: the Bahamas, China, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Oman, Peru and Sri Lanka.

The 2009 recommendation for certification changes Costa Rica's status by de-certifying that country. For several years, OES/OMC has been accumulating data, both through certification visits and from credible third-party sources suggesting that Costa Rica's program did not provide sanctions for TED violations that served as an effective deterrent against the failure to use TEDs. In meetings with senior Costa Rican fisheries officials during the December 2008 certification visit, the State Department representative stressed that without rapid remedial action Costa Rica's certification might be compromised. Costa Rican officials were aware of the issue and promised to resolve it early in 2009. However, the United States Embassy in San Jose reports that since that December visit Costa Rican authorities have not taken all the action they promised. Additionally, third parties, including Costa Rican Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have written OES/OMC saying that TED violations in Costa Rica still go unpunished. Because of Costa Rica's ineffective enforcement mechanism for TEDs violations, the State Department has concluded that Costa Rica's regulatory program governing the incidental take of sea turtles is not currently comparable to that of the United States.

The Department of State has communicated the certifications under Section 609 to the Office of Field Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In addition, this Federal Register Notice confirms that the requirement for all DS-2031 forms from uncertified nations must be originals and signed by the competent domestic fisheries authority. This policy change was first announced in a Department of State media note released on December 21, 2004. In order for shrimp harvested with Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in an uncertified nation to be eligible for importation into the United States under the exemption: “Shrimp harvested by commercial shrimp trawl vessels using TEDs comparable in effectiveness to those required in the United States”, the Department of State must determine in advance that the government of the harvesting nation has put in place adequate procedures to ensure the accurate completion of the DS-2031 forms. At this time, the Department has made such a determination only with respect to Brazil and Australia. Thus, the importation of TED-caught shrimp from any other uncertified nation will not be allowed. For Brazil, only shrimp harvested in the northern shrimp fishery are eligible for entry under this exemption. For Australia, shrimp harvested in the Exmouth, Northern Prawn Fishery and Torres Strait Fishery are eligible for entry under this exemption.

In addition, the Department has already made a determination with regard to wild-harvest shrimp harvested in the Spencer Gulf region in Australia. This product may be exported to the U.S. using a DS-2031 under the exemption for “shrimp harvested in a manner or under circumstances determined by the Department of State not to pose a threat of the incidental taking of sea turtles.” An official of the Government of Australia still also must certify the DS-2031.

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Dated: April 30, 2009.

Margaret F. Hayes,

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, Department of State.

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[FR Doc. E9-10497 Filed 5-5-09; 8:45 am]