[Federal Register: June 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 124)]
[Page 37426-37429]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Information Collection To Be Sent to the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB) for Approval Under the Paperwork Reduction Act; Trade of 
Threatened Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We (Fish and Wildlife Service or Service) plan to send the 
collection of information described below to OMB for approval under the 
provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. The information 
collected is needed to effectively implement the provisions of the 
special rule to control the trade of threatened beluga sturgeon (Huso 
huso) (70 FR 10493, March 4, 2005). That rule requires that range 
countries for beluga sturgeon provide us with information and reports 
on a variety of issues related to beluga sturgeon conservation and 
trade. This information is necessary for us to gauge the effectiveness 
of international management efforts in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea 
regions, and to determine if the permit exemptions granted under the 
special rule are bringing about appropriate actions by national 
fisheries authorities and multilateral agreements.

DATES: You must submit comments on or before August 29, 2005.

ADDRESSES: Send your comments on this information collection to Hope 
Grey, Information Collection Clearance Officer, Fish and Wildlife 
Service, MS-222-ARLSQ, 4401 North Fairfax Drive,

[[Page 37427]]

Arlington, VA 22203; Krista_Bibb@fws.gov (e-mail); or (703) 358-2269 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: To request a copy of the information 
collection requirements, explanatory information, or related materials, 
contact Krista Bibb at the above addresses or by telephone at (703) 358-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: OMB regulations at 5 CFR part 1320, which 
implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.), require that interested members of the public and 
affected agencies have an opportunity to comment on information 
collection and recordkeeping activities (see 5 CFR 1320.8(d)). We plan 
to send a request to OMB for approval of the collection of information 
required by the special rule to control the trade of threatened beluga 
sturgeon (70 FR 10493, March 4, 2005). Federal agencies 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. 
However, there is no OMB control number for this information collection 
because fewer than 10 entities currently commercially trade in beluga 
caviar and, therefore, this requirement under the Paperwork Reduction 
Act does not apply. While an OMB control number is not necessary for 
collections that have such a low number of affected parties, it is 
reasonable to assume that there may be additional applicants or 
affected parties in the coming years. Therefore, we will request a 3-
year term of approval for this information collection.
    The special rule requires that range countries for beluga sturgeon 
develop multilateral fishery management plans, implement appropriate 
sturgeon fisheries laws and regulations, and provide biennial reports 
to us on a variety of issues related to beluga sturgeon conservation 
and trade. Range countries must do this if they wish to have an 
exemption to the standard threatened species permits issued under 50 
CFR part 17, normally required under the Endangered Species Act to 
import, export, re-export, or conduct interstate commerce in listed 
    The special rule also requires certain information from U.S. and 
foreign aquaculture facilities wishing to trade in beluga sturgeon 
products without threatened species permits. If such facilities wish to 
import, re-export, or conduct U.S. interstate commerce in their beluga 
sturgeon products without threatened species permits, they must submit 
proof that they have agreements with one or more range countries to 
research, protect, or recover wild beluga sturgeon. These facilities 
must use captive-bred broodstock in all of their beluga sturgeon 
production. Also, upon application for a permit exemption under the 
special rule, these facilities must submit proof that the relevant 
government authority certifies they are following aquaculture best-
management practices to prevent the escape of live specimens or 
pathogens into surrounding habitats. Finally, these facilities must 
also submit biennial reports to the Service documenting their 
collaboration with beluga sturgeon range countries to study and 
conserve wild beluga sturgeon. We will use the information collected 
from the relevant aquaculture facilities to determine if the special 
rule's exemptions are having the intended effect of capacity building 
and technology transfer from viable businesses to the range countries.
    Beluga sturgeon are currently known to occur only in the Caspian 
and Black Seas and certain rivers connected to these basins. Of the 14 
countries where the species still occurs, only 11 have significant 
beluga sturgeon habitat in the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, or Danube River, 
and, consequently, these countries (Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, 
Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russian Federation, 
Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine; hereafter 
referred to as the ``littoral states'') take responsibility for 
cooperative management of the species. Only eight of these countries 
(Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, 
Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkmenistan) currently 
permit commercial harvest and export of beluga sturgeon.
    Overharvest, severe habitat degradation, and other factors led to 
the listing of beluga sturgeon as threatened throughout its range under 
the Endangered Species Act (Act) and in Appendix II of the Convention 
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora 
(CITES). On March 4, 2005, we issued a special rule under Section 4(d) 
of the Act to control the trade in beluga sturgeon, monitor the effects 
of commercial aquaculture on recovery of wild beluga sturgeon 
populations, and effect robust conservation programs in the littoral 
states. The 4(d) rule prohibits all trade (import, export, re-export, 
and foreign and interstate commerce) in beluga sturgeon and beluga 
sturgeon products, except as provided in the special rule or with 
permits under the provisions of Section 10 of the Act. This special 
rule initially allows littoral states 6 months from the rule's 
effective date to submit a suite of reports, including information on 
management measures, to us for review. During this initial 6-month 
period, imports, re-exports, and exports of, and interstate and foreign 
commerce in, certain beluga sturgeon caviar and meat may continue 
without a requirement for threatened species permits. This is intended 
to provide the littoral states time to submit the required documents. 
Similarly, we will consider making programmatic permit exemptions for 
commercial aquaculture facilities outside the littoral states if they 
meet certain criteria for: (1) Enhancing the survival of populations of 
wild beluga sturgeon and (2) not threatening native aquatic fauna in 
the country in which the facility is located. CITES documentation will 
still be required for any international movement of beluga sturgeon and 
beluga sturgeon products, except as they may qualify for an exemption 
as personal or household effects.
    By September 6, 2005, each littoral state wishing to export beluga 
caviar or beluga meat to the United States without the need for a 
threatened species permit issued under 50 CFR 17.32 must submit to the 
Service's Division of Scientific Authority a copy of a cooperative 
management plan for that state's respective basin. This plan must be 
agreed to by each littoral state in the relevant basin (not just 
exporting nations). These comprise Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Serbia 
and Montenegro, Turkey, and Ukraine in the Black Sea and Danube River, 
and, in the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, 
Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan. This basinwide 
management plan must contain the following elements:
    1. A clear statement of the recovery and management objectives for 
the plan, including a specification of the stock(s) concerned, a 
definition of what constitutes overfishing for that stock, and a 
rebuilding objective and schedule for that stock;
    2. A statement of standard fishery management measures and habitat 
improvement strategies the nations involved will use (e.g., size 
limits, target harvest rates, quotas, seasons, fishing gear, effort 
caps, fish passage improvement, water quality controls);
    3. A complete statement of the specific regulatory, monitoring, and 
research requirements that each cooperating nation must implement to 
comply with the management plan;
    4. A complete description of how stock survey data and fisheries 
data are used to establish annual catch and export quotas, including a 

[[Page 37428]]

explanation of any models used and the assumptions underlying those 
    5. Procedures under which the nations may implement and enforce 
alternative management measures that achieve the same conservation 
benefits for beluga sturgeon as the standards mentioned in paragraph 2; 
    6. A complete schedule showing when nations must take particular 
actions to comply with the plan.
    Within 90 days of receipt, the Service's Division of Scientific 
Authority will review these basinwide management plans for completeness 
and clarity. If any elements of the management plans are missing or 
unclear, we will give the appropriate littoral states 60 days to 
provide additional information. If the littoral states fail to respond 
or fail to submit basinwide management plans by the specified 
deadlines, or if we are unable to confirm that all littoral states are 
signatories to those plans, we will immediately suspend trade with all 
littoral states in the given basin (Caspian Sea or Black Sea) until we 
are satisfied that such management plans exist and have been agreed to 
by the relevant countries.
    Also by September 6, 2005, the effective date of this special rule, 
all littoral states wishing to export beluga caviar and meat to the 
United States under an exemption from threatened species permits must 
submit copies of national legislation and national fishery regulations 
pertaining to the harvest, trade, aquaculture, restocking, and 
processing of beluga sturgeon. These laws and regulations must exhibit 
clear means to implement the cooperative management plans mentioned in 
paragraph 1 above. The Service's Division of Scientific Authority will 
review these laws and regulations for completeness and clarity within 
90 days of receipt. If any elements of the national legislation or 
national fishery regulations are missing or unclear, we will ask the 
appropriate littoral state(s) to provide additional information within 
60 days of the date we contact them. If the littoral states fail to 
respond or fail to submit copies of national laws and regulations by 
the specified deadlines, we will immediately suspend trade with the 
given littoral states until we are satisfied that such laws and 
regulations are in effect.
    No later than December 1, 2005, and every 2 years on that 
anniversary, all littoral states wishing to export beluga sturgeon 
products to the United States must submit a report to the Service. This 
report must contain, at a minimum:
    1. A description of the specific fishery regulations that affect 
the harvest of Huso huso in the respective littoral state, with any 
changes from the previous report highlighted;
    2. A description of any revisions to the cooperative management 
program mentioned above, including any new models, assumptions, or 
equations used to set harvest and export quotas;
    3. Updated time-series of information on beluga sturgeon obtained 
from monitoring programs, including estimates of relative or absolute 
stock size, fishing mortality, natural mortality, spawning activity, 
habitat use, hatchery and restocking programs, and other relevant 
    4. A summary of law enforcement activities undertaken in the last 2 
years, and a description of any changes in programs to prevent poaching 
and smuggling, including indicators of their effectiveness;
    5. A summary of the revenues the commercial exploitation of beluga 
sturgeon generates in the respective littoral state, and a summary of 
any documented conservation benefits resulting from the commercial 
harvest program in that country (e.g., revenues allocated to hatchery 
and restocking programs or research programs); and
    6. Export data for the previous 2 calendar years.
    Starting in December 2005, we will review information in the 
littoral state reports and any other pertinent information on wild 
beluga sturgeon conservation. Thereafter, we will conduct reviews 
biennially within 90 days of receiving the reports. If any elements of 
the biennial reports are missing or unclear, we will give the 
appropriate littoral states 60 days to provide additional information. 
If the littoral states fail to respond or fail to submit biennial 
reports by the specified deadline, we will immediately suspend trade 
with the given littoral states. We will use these reviews to determine 
if littoral state management programs are leading to recovery of wild 
beluga sturgeon stocks.
    Based on the review of biennial reports, we propose to 
administratively suspend or restrict imports, re-exports, exports, and 
interstate commerce involving beluga sturgeon products from the 
littoral states if we determine that wild beluga sturgeon stock status 
worsens or threats to the species increase. Any such restriction would 
also apply to foreign commerce in beluga sturgeon products involving 
persons under U.S. jurisdiction.
    Except in certain circumstances, the special rule does not exempt 
beluga sturgeon or any beluga sturgeon products derived from 
aquaculture or grow-out operations outside the littoral states from the 
provisions of the Act, which could (1) undermine the incentives for 
conserving wild Huso huso in the littoral states; (2) utilize Huso huso 
broodstock from the littoral states without any direct benefit to wild 
populations; and (3) result in the release of beluga sturgeon or 
disease pathogens into habitats outside their native range. Therefore, 
import, export, re-export, or interstate or foreign commerce involving 
any beluga sturgeon products that originate from aquaculture operations 
outside the littoral states will normally require a threatened species 
permit in addition to any applicable CITES documents (except as 
provided for captive-bred wildlife in 50 CFR 17.21(g)). However, we 
will consider programmatic exemptions to this prohibition for beluga 
caviar and meat from aquaculture facilities that provide information to 
our offices that demonstrate (1) the relevant regulatory agency has 
certified that the facility uses best-management practices to prevent 
escapes and disease introduction into surrounding habitats, and the 
Service has approved the specific practices; (2) the facility has 
entered into a formal agreement with one or more littoral states to 
study, conserve, or otherwise enhance the survival of wild populations 
of beluga sturgeon; and (3) the facility uses only captive-bred beluga 
sturgeon (i.e., captive F1 generation and beyond) in its production 
systems. We will require the facilities to file biennial reports so we 
can document the results and efficacy of any arrangements with littoral 
    Title: Trade of Threatened Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso).
    Form number: None.
    Frequency: For littoral states, an initial reporting requirement 
for basinwide management plans and national regulations is due by 
September 6, 2005. Biennial reports are due from littoral state 
governments on December 1, 2005, and every 2 years thereafter. For 
aquaculture facilities outside the littoral states, we require an 
initial application with relevant documents followed by biennial 
reports on the anniversary of the exemption.
    Description of respondents: Foreign government officials and 
sturgeon aquaculture businesses.
    Total annual burden hours: For littoral state governments in 2005: 
5,120 hours; for biennial reporting years: 1,280 hours. For aquaculture 
facilities: 80 hours in year of application, 80 hours in biennial 
reporting years.
    Total annual responses: Nine (eight littoral state governments, one 
commercial aquaculture facility).

[[Page 37429]]

    We invite your comments on: (1) Whether or not the collection of 
information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of 
the agency, including whether or not the information will have 
practical utility; (2) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the 
burden of the information collection; (3) ways to enhance the quality, 
utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways 
to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents.

    Dated: June 20, 2005.
Krista Bibb,
Information Collection Clearance Officer, Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 05-12854 Filed 6-28-05; 8:45 am]