Fish and Wildlife issues special exemption for beluga sturgeon imports
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a special rule to exempt international trade in meat and caviar from threatened beluga sturgeon from permits normally required under the country’s Endangered Species Act.
“We believe this special rule provides great incentives to countries harvesting beluga sturgeon to work with the U.S. to restore and conserve wild populations,” said Steve Williams, director of the agency, in a statement. “The rule is also an effective tool to encourage aquaculture facilities to get involved in the recovery of these economically valuable fish.”
The special rule published March 3 replaces a prior interim special rule.
The special rule’s exemptions are limited to economically valuable beluga caviar and by-products, such as cosmetics, and to beluga sturgeon meat harvested either from the wild or from hatcheries in countries with native populations, the agency said.
To comply, countries must submit written management plans, annual reports and copies of national fishing laws on a specified schedule to Fish and Wildlife in order to use this exemption. If an exporting country fails to meet that schedule, then U.S. importers would have to comply with all the Endangered Species Act’s permitting requirements for threatened species, the agency said.
Currently, eight countries with indigenous beluga populations allow the commercial harvest and export of beluga sturgeon: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkmenistan. These countries have six months from the effective date of March 4 to submit their beluga sturgeon conservation and management plans to Fish and Wildlife for review.