Significant Issues and Developments for 2011


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U.S. Priorities for Fishermen, Science, and Stewardship Achieved at 2011 Annual Meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas

The annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) took place in Istanbul, Turkey from November 9-19, 2011. ICCAT is the regional fisheries management organization responsible for international management of Atlantic tuna and tuna-like species. Significant progress was made at the meeting on key U.S. priorities to improve science, management of fish stocks and their ecosystems, monitoring of fishing activities, and compliance with ICCAT requirements. Progress in a number of these areas was achieved through the adoption of U.S.-initiated proposals, including several measures to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, a measure to strengthen the link between scientific advice and management, a measure addressing bycatch reporting requirements, and a measure for the conservation of silky sharks. The U.S. delegation was also able to preserve the current U.S. quota for North Atlantic swordfish, and ICCAT agreed to improved management measures for West African fisheries of bigeye and yellowfin tuna, which travel across the Atlantic Ocean and are important to U.S. recreational and commercial fishers. Two subsidiary bodies of the Commission, both chaired by U.S. delegates, conducted in-depth reviews of member and non-member compliance and identified 11 countries for non-compliance with ICCAT rules. ICCAT also agreed on a process to advance consideration of amending the ICCAT Convention to bring its provisions more closely in line with modern international fisheries management principles.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.

Implementing the Agreement to Protect RMS Titanic Wreck Site (August, 2011)

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and other interested agencies are working with Congress to protect R.M.S. Titanic from looting and unwanted salvage and to ensure adherence to the scientific rules for research, recovery or salvage that will help preserve R.M.S. Titanic for present and future generations. In particular, we are working with Congress to: 1) implement the International Agreement including the recognition of the wreck as a maritime memorial and provide the authority to ensure that it continues to be respected as the resting place of those who lost their lives in its sinking; 2) prohibit potentially harmful activities directed at R.M.S. Titanic; 3) establish a permitting system to manage the research, exploration, recovery and salvage of R.M.S. Titanic; 4) require the application of current professional standards of scientific and archaeological resource management to ensure thatR.M.S. Titanic is properly preserved and conserved for future generations; and 5) create an Advisory Council to make recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce regarding the protection and long-term management of the wreck-site as well as the conservation and curation of any artifacts recovered.

For further information please contact Ole Varmer by email or phone: (202) 482-1402.

Court awards Titanic collection to RMS Titanic Inc. subject to covenants and conditions of conservation and curation consistent with preservation standards (August 15, 2011).

On August 15, 2011, the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, signed an Order granting R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. ("RMST") title to the artifacts recovered in the 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2004 salvage expeditions subject to certain specified covenants and conditions. The covenants and conditions were initially proposed by RMST, negotiated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of State through the Department of Justice (DOJ), and then finalized by the court. The covenants and conditions ensure that the collection of artifacts recovered from Titanic will be conserved and curated consistent with current international and U.S. historic preservation standards. Under the covenants and conditions, NOAA represents the public interest in Titanic and has authority to enforce their terms in court proceedings.

Ban on Use or Carriage of Heavy Grade Oils on Ships in the Antarctic (August 1, 2011)

On August 1, 2011, an amendment to Annex I (see pp. 1-2 of Annex 10; Excerpt) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to ban the use or carriage of heavy grade oils (HGOs) by vessels in Antarctic waters (south of 60 deg. south latitude) entered into force. The amendment was adopted on March 26, 2010 at the 60th Session of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and with its entry into force, the ban will increase protection of the ocean and marine environment in the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean from potential oil spills or releases that could devastate the ecologically pristine and vulnerable environment. In recent years there has been a marked increase of shipping traffic in the region, primarily by larger vessels such as cruise ships and fishing vessels that use HGOs. A spill of HGOs in the fragile, remote, and harsh climate of the Antarctic could be environmentally devastating as well as extremely difficult and costly to remediate. In 2005, the Antarctic Treaty Parties requested that the IMO take steps to restrict the use of HGOs in Antarctic waters because of the high risk of fuel release in the Antarctic Treaty Area due to conditions such as icebergs, sea and ice, uncharted waters and potentially disastrous environmental impacts.

Secretary Locke certifies that Iceland's whaling undermines the International Whaling Commission (July 19, 2011)

On July 19, 2011, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified to President Obama, pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the U.S. Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, that Iceland’s commercial whaling and international trade in fin whale products is diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and urged the Government of Iceland to cease permitting commercial whaling. Iceland killed 273 endangered fin whales in 2009 and 2010. Iceland has not harvested any fin whales so far in 2011, but the government continues to permit whaling and has issued a whale quota for the 2011 season. Iceland has continued to harvest minke whales in 2011. The IWC has in place a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Under the Pelly Amendment, the Secretary of Commerce certifies to the President that "nationals of a foreign country . . . are conducting fishing operations in a manner or under circumstances which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program."

In his letter, Secretary Locke recommended that the President take a number of actions, including:

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.

IMO Approves Treaty Amendments to Further Reduce Pollution to the Marine Environment (July 15, 2011)

On July 15, 2011, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the UN, adopted amendments to Annexes IV, V, and VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (otherwise known as MARPOL). Amendments to Annex IV (which regulates ship discharges of sewage) authorize the designation of "Special Areas" where more stringent discharge restrictions for passenger ships may be applied, and designate the Baltic Sea as the first Special Area established under Annex IV. The revised Annex V establishes a more environmentally protective regime for the discharge of ship-generated garbage by instituting a "reverse list" approach whereby the disposal of such garbage into the sea is banned unless otherwise explicitly allowed. Exceptions to the general prohibition include food wastes and cargo residues, both of which must meet distance-from-land discharge limits. Unless determined to the harmful to the marine environment, cleaning agents may be discharged. Additional notable amendments to Annex V include discharge requirements for animal carcasses and a safety exception allowing the discharge of fishing gear to protect the marine environment or for the safety of the ship or crew. Finally, Annex V amendments update the regulations governing discharge of garbage in special areas. MEPC adopted two significant amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (which regulates air pollution from ships). First, MEPC adopted the first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime for an international industry sector. The amendment requires new ships to adopt the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for all ships. The second set of amendments designate particular Atlantic and Pacific coastal waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as an emission control area. The treaty amendments are expected to enter into force in January 2013 and the emission control area is scheduled to take effect 12 months thereafter. Additionally, the MEPC agreed to designate the Strait of Bonifacio as the thirteenth marine area to be designated a particularly sensitive sea area (PSSA). This is the first PSSA designation since the IMO designated Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as a PSSA in 2008.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.


U.S. joins more than 50 nations in adopting recommendations on measures to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (July 15, 2011)

Delegates from more than fifty nations representing members of all five tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) met in La Jolla, California from July 11-14. Among the recommendations adopted by the meeting were three intended to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, all of which reflect key U.S. priorities. The first recommendation calls on each of the five tuna RFMOs to move toward the adoption of measures to allow for the cross-listing of fishing vessels that have been included on the IUU vessel list of another tuna RFMO, taking into account a set of principles for cross-listing proposed by the United States. Cross-listing measures will make it more difficult for an IUU vessel previously listed by only one RFMO to avoid detection and enforcement actions by moving to another region. This outcome was a key goal for the NOAA-led U.S. delegation. Participants also adopted a recommendation that calls on the five tuna RFMOs to continue work on the development of a consolidated list of authorized fishing vessels, including through the development of unique vessel identifiers for such vessels. Finally, the meeting participants recommended continuing efforts to build the capacity of developing States to implement monitoring, control and surveillance measures, particularly in the area of port State measures and catch documentation schemes, both important tools in combating IUU fishing. Recommendations of the meeting will inform negotiations for legally binding measures within each of the five tuna RFMOs.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.

U.S. Proposes Additional International Environmental Protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (March 11, 2011).

On March 11, 2011, the U.S. submitted to the International Maritime Organization a proposal to provide additional environmental protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal expands the protections within the Area to be Avoided (ATBA) off the coast of Washington State so that they apply to all vessels, other than fishing or research vessels, of 400 gross tons and above and all vessels required to prepare oil and hazardous substance discharge response plans under section 311(j) of the Clean Water Act. In effect, the proposal expands the vessel population to which the existing ATBA applies from vessels larger than 1600 gross tons to vessels larger than 400 gross tons and extends it to all vessels and barges that carry oil or hazardous materials in bulk as cargo or cargo residue. These vessels may carry substantial amounts of bunker fuel which, if spilled, could have a significant adverse impact on the sensitive ecological resources of the sanctuary. Application of the ATBA to this additional category of ships would move them farther offshore, thus increasing the time available to respond to an accident and minimizing any discharge’s impact on the Sanctuary. Roughly speaking, the ATBA comprises the marine area from the coastline of the Sanctuary seaward 25 nautical miles. A map depicting the ATBA is available for download.

Arctic Council Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Makes Progress at its February 2011 Meeting. (February, 2011)

The Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) met in Norway from 15-17 February 2011 for its last semi-annual meeting before the 2011 Arctic Council Ministerial meeting taking place in Nuuk, Greenland in May. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum established to promote cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic States. PAME, one of the six working groups of the Arctic Council, is the focal point of the Arctic Council’s activities related to the protection and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment. At its meetings in February, PAME finalized a progress report on implementation of the 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (ASMA) that provides a guide for action by the Arctic Council, Arctic states, and others to improve the safety and minimize the adverse environmental impacts of Arctic shipping. PAME also reviewed the first of two phases of a report on the environmental risks associated with the use and carriage of heavy fuel oils (HFO) by vessels in the Arctic and approved a project proposal to identify options that Arctic states might pursue for supplementing or strengthening international regulations that address such risks. Finally, PAME provisionally approved the first phase of the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR), a two-phased project that will review global and regional measures that are in place for the protection of the Arctic marine environment, identify any gaps or weaknesses in light of evolving trends, and make recommendations to the Arctic states for addressing those gaps or weaknesses. PAME’s next meeting will take place in September 2011.

NOAA Rule for the Identification and Certification of Nations whose Vessels are Engaged in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Bycatch of Protected Living Marine Resources (January 12, 2011)

On January 12, 2011, NOAA published a final rule to implement identification and certification provisions of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act (Moratorium Protection Act) to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and bycatch of protected living marine resources (PLMRs). In January 2011, NOAA also submitted a biennial report to Congress on the implementation of the Moratorium Protection Act. The Moratorium Protection Act requires the Secretary of Commerce to identify in a biennial report to Congress those foreign nations whose fishing vessels are engaged in IUU fishing or fishing activities or practices that result in bycatch of PLMRs. The Moratorium Protection Act also requires the establishment of procedures to certify whether appropriate corrective actions have been taken to address IUU fishing or bycatch of PLMRs by fishing vessels of those nations. Under the Moratorium Protection Act, identified nations that are not positively certified by the Secretary of Commerce could be subject to prohibitions on the importation of certain fisheries products into the United States and other measures, including limitations on port access under the High Seas Driftnet Fisheries Enforcement Act. In the January 2011 biennial report to Congress, NOAA identified six nations (Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela) whose fishing vessels engaged in IUU fishing in 2009 and/or 2010. In this report, NOAA also announced that the six nations identified for IUU fishing in NOAA’s 2009 biennial report to Congress (China, France, Italy, Libya, Panama, and Tunisia) have received a positive certification as a result of the actions they have taken to address the IUU fishing at issue, including penalties to the vessels in question or the adoption of laws to strengthen control of their fishing fleets.

Additional reference information: Some of these links are to external sites.