[Federal Register: December 6, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 233)]
[Page 68113-68114]
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 policy.


SUMMARY: We will 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: This policy is effective on December 6, 1999.

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 the 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. On the effective 
date of this policy, the normal shelf life of any caviar imported 
before April 1, 1998, will have been exceeded by more than 8 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 will 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 will no longer accept pre-
Convention certificates for the importation of Appendix II sturgeon 
caviar into the United States.
    For imports, this 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 policy does not affect aquaculture-produced caviar or caviar 
acquired from the wild after April 1, 1998, if a valid CITES permit or 
re-export certificate is issued and accompanies the shipment.
    On October 26, 1999, we published a proposed policy [64 FR 57645] 
that we would no longer issue or accept for import any pre-Convention 
certificates for caviar. Effective [date of publication], we are going 
to carry out this policy.

Comments and Information Received

    Comments were received from one conservation organization. This 
organization strongly supported the proposed policy to no longer issue 
or accept pre-Convention certificates for caviar.

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 
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 policy is restricting the sturgeon industry within the 
United States from engaging in commerce, under an exemption of 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 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 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 for caviar is terminated by this policy.
    Similarly, this policy is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
    This 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

[[Page 68114]]

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 CITES.
    Under Executive Order 12630, this policy does not have significant 
takings implications for the same reason as described above under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act.
    Under Executive Order 13132, this policy does not have sufficient 
federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism 
Assessment because there are no effects on State management programs.
    Under Executive Order 12988, the Office of the Solicitor has 
determined that this policy does not unduly burden the judicial system 
and meets the requirements of Sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of the Order.
    This 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. Details of the information collection requirements 
for CITES documentation appear at Title 50 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations, Section 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 policy does not constitute a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. 
Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required. This 
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. The one comment that we received did not 
include any suggestions on how to make the proposed policy easier to 
    Under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 551-553), our 
normal practice is to publish policies with a 30-day delay in effective 
date. But in this case, we are using the ``good cause'' exemption under 
5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3) to make this policy effective upon publication for 
the following reasons: (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 should no longer be available 
any pre-Convention caviar imported before April 1, 1998. (2) On the 
effective date of this policy, the normal shelf life of any caviar 
imported before April 1, 1998, will have been exceeded by more than 8 
months, and we have learned in discussions we have had with the 
sturgeon products industry that this caviar would be of very low 
quality and may be unhealthy for consumption. (3) As a party to CITES, 
it is our responsibility to carry out promptly our obligations under 
the treaty, and we interpret our obligations to include the prompt 
implementation of the CITES Secretariat's prudent recommendation that 
no permits or certificates declaring pre-Convention caviar should be 
accepted after April 1, 1999. (4) Recent correspondence from the CITES 
Secretariat indicates that the European Union has already prohibited 
the trade in pre-Convention caviar. (5) We have shown the urgency of 
this situation by the fact that, in the proposed policy published on 
October 26, 1999 [64 FR 57645], the comment period was reduced from the 
usual 60 days to only 15 days.

    Dated: November 29, 1999.
Donald J. Barry,
Assistant Secretary--Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 99-31449 Filed 12-3-99; 8:45 am]