[Federal Register: October 26, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 206)]
[Page 57645-57646]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service
RIN 1018-AF66

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 
Fauna and Flora (CITES); Carrying Out the Inclusion of all Species of 
the Order Acipenseriformes (Sturgeon and Paddlefish) in the Appendices 

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of proposed policy.


SUMMARY: We propose to no longer issue or accept for import any ``pre-
Convention'' certificates for caviar. A pre-Convention certificate for 
caviar documents that the caviar pre-dates April 1, 1998, the effective 
date of the listing of all previously unlisted species of the Order 
Acipenseriformes (sturgeon and paddlefish) in the Appendices to the 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora (CITES).

DATES: We will consider comments and information received by November 
10, 1999 in developing a final policy.

ADDRESSES: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Management 
Authority, Mail Stop 700 ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. 
If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments by any one of 
several methods. You may mail comments to the above address. You may 
also comment via the Internet to r9oma__cites@fws.gov. Please submit 
Internet comments as an ASCII file, avoiding the use of special 
characters and any form of encryption. Please also include Attn: [RIN 
number, 1018-AF66] and your name and return address in your Internet 
message. If you do not receive a confirmation from the system that we 
have received your Internet message, contact us directly at the 
telephone number listed below. Finally, you may hand-deliver comments 
to the above address.

Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, telephone (703) 
358-2093, fax (703) 358-2280.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: To make sure that commercial demand does not 
threaten the survival of wild sturgeon, the Tenth Meeting of the 
Conference of Parties to CITES (COP10) adopted a proposal on June 20, 
1997, to include all previously unlisted species of the Order 
Acipenseriformes (sturgeon and paddlefish) in Appendix II of CITES, 
effective April 1, 1998. Therefore, all international shipments of 
sturgeon and paddlefish specimens or their parts and products, 
including caviar, made on or after April 1, 1998, must include a valid 
CITES export permit, re-export certificate, or pre-Convention 
certificate, which shows that the CITES treaty is being followed.
    We have issued pre-Convention certificates for the re-export of 
caviar only when we were satisfied that it was imported before April 1, 
1998. We have learned from the sturgeon products industry and others 
that the normal shelf life for caviar is 12 months. By the time this 
proposed policy is finalized, the normal shelf life of any caviar 
imported before April 1, 1998, will have been exceeded by several 
months. In addition, it has become evident since April 1, 1998, that 
the false declaration of caviar as having been acquired before April 1, 
1998, is a means of circumventing the CITES treaty. So, we propose to 
no longer issue pre-Convention certificates for caviar.
    On March 12, 1999, the CITES Secretariat issued Notification to the 
Parties No. 1999/23, which recommends that no permits or certificates 
declaring pre-Convention caviar should be accepted after April 1, 1999. 
Consistent with that recommendation, we propose to no longer accept 
``pre-Convention'' certificates for the importation of Appendix II 
sturgeon caviar into the United States.
    For imports, this proposed policy does not affect aquaculture-
produced caviar or caviar harvested from the wild after April 1, 1998, 
which will continue to be allowed with a valid CITES export permit from 
the country of origin or a valid CITES re-export certificate from the 
country of re-export. For exports or re-exports from the United States, 
this proposed policy does not affect aquaculture-produced caviar or 

[[Page 57646]]

acquired from the wild after April 1, 1998, provided a valid CITES 
permit or re-export certificate is issued and accompanies the shipment.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home address from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. There also may be limited circumstances in 
which we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's 
identity, as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name 
and/or address, you must state this clearly at the beginning of your 
comment. But, we will not consider anonymous comments. We generally 
make all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of 
organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in their 

Required Determinations

    This document has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and 
Budget under Executive Order 12866.
    The Department of the Interior certifies that this document will 
not have a significant effect on a substantial number of small entities 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). This 
proposed policy would restrict the sturgeon industry within the United 
States from engaging in foreign commerce with ``pre-Convention'' caviar 
that is, according to industry representatives, perhaps no longer 
available, and if available, only in very limited quantities at greatly 
reduced value. We estimate that there would likely be less than 100 
businesses with remaining stocks of ``pre-Convention'' caviar. Any such 
caviar has exceeded its normal shelf life and has decreased in value 
dramatically. Therefore, this proposed policy is restricting the 
sturgeon industry within the United States from engaging in commerce, 
under an exemption to CITES, with a commodity that may no longer even 
be available, and if available, only in very limited quantities at 
greatly reduced value. Therefore, it does not appear likely that this 
proposed policy will have a significant economic effect on a 
substantial number of small entities as defined under the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act. It should be noted that this proposed policy will not 
restrict members of the sturgeon products industry from conducting 
business with caviar that has been obtained after April 1, 1998. Only 
the availability of the ``pre-Convention'' exemption would be 
terminated if this proposed policy were made final.
    Similarly, this proposed policy is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 
804(2), the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
    This proposed policy does not impose an unfunded mandate of more 
than $100 million per year or have a significant or unique effect on 
State, local, or tribal governments or the private sector because we, 
as the lead agency for CITES implementation in the United States, are 
responsible for the authorization of shipments of live wildlife, or 
their parts and products, that are subject to the requirements of 
    Under Executive Order 12630, this proposed policy does not have 
significant takings implications for the same reason as described above 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act.
    Under Executive Order 12612, this proposed policy does not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
Federalism Assessment because it is not anticipated that a state 
tagging program, similar to the one currently employed in the 
management of CITES listed furbearer species for export, will be 
administered in the management of exports of sturgeon products from 
U.S. wild-caught stock.
    Under Executive Order 12988, the Office of the Solicitor has 
determined that this proposed policy does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of Sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Order.
    This proposed policy does not contain new or revised information 
collection for which Office of Management and Budget approval is 
required under the Paperwork Reduction Act. Information collections 
associated with CITES permits is covered by an existing OMB approval, 
and is assigned clearance No. 1018-0093, Form 3-200-27, with an 
expiration date of January 31, 2001. Detailed information for the CITES 
documentation appears at 50 CFR 23.15(g). The Service may not conduct 
or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of 
information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number.
    This proposed policy does not constitute a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. 
Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required. The 
proposed policy is categorically excluded from further National 
Environmental Policy Act requirements, under Part 516 of the 
Departmental Manual, Chapter 2, Appendix 1.10.
    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make 
this proposed policy easier to understand including answers to 
questions such as the following: (1) Are the requirements in the 
proposed policy clearly stated?; (2) Does the proposed policy contain 
technical language that interferes with its clarity? What else could we 
do to make this proposed policy easier to understand?
    Our normal practice is to publish proposed policies with a 60-day 
comment period. But in this case, we are using a 15-day comment period 
since we feel that a 60-day comment period is unnecessary because: 1) 
we have learned in discussions we have had with the sturgeon products 
industry and others, that the normal shelf life for caviar is 12 months 
so, there no longer is any pre-Convention caviar available; 2) as a 
member of CITES, it is our responsibility to carry out promptly our 
obligations under the treaty.

    Dated: September 21, 1999.
Donald J. Barry,
Assistant Secretary--Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 99-27953 Filed 10-25-99; 8:45 am]