[Federal Register: June 29, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 124)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 38863-38873]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr29jn04-32]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AT54

 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Special Rule To 
Control the Trade of Threatened Beluga Sturgeon (Huso huso)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

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SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), are 
proposing to establish a special rule under Section 4(d) of the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), to exempt the 
international, foreign, and interstate commerce in certain beluga 
sturgeon (Huso huso) products from threatened species permits normally 
required under 50 CFR 17.32. Beluga sturgeon occur in the Caspian and 
Black Seas, and are found in the territorial waters of 11 countries 
(i.e., the range countries). Over-harvest, severe habitat degradation, 
and other factors have led to the listing of beluga sturgeon as 
threatened throughout its range under the Act and in Appendix II of the

[[Page 38864]]

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora (CITES). In our final listing rule, we delayed the effective 
date of the threatened listing for 6 months in order to promulgate a 
4(d) rule. After the listing becomes effective, the Act will prohibit 
all trade (foreign, international, and interstate) in beluga sturgeon 
and beluga sturgeon products, except as provided in the special rule or 
with permits under the provision of Section 10 of the Act. This 
proposed special rule initially allows range countries 6 months from 
the rule's effective date to submit a suite of reports and management 
measures to us for review. During this initial waiting period, imports, 
re-exports, and interstate and foreign commerce of certain beluga 
sturgeon products will continue without a requirement for threatened 
species permits. This is intended to provide the range countries time 
to submit the required documents. CITES documentation will still be 
required.
    Under this proposed rule, beluga caviar and beluga sturgeon meat 
originating from wild-caught fish or range country hatcheries may be 
transferred into and out of the United States without threatened 
species permits. We will also exempt interstate and foreign commerce in 
these products from permit requirements, if that trade occurs in the 
United States or involves U.S. citizens. However, after an initial 6 
months of information gathering in the range states, these exemptions 
will occur only after the range countries have fulfilled certain 
requirements as described below. In addition, all relevant provisions 
of CITES will continue to govern the international trade in all beluga 
sturgeon products. We are proposing to allow this conditional trade to 
promote effective conservation of Huso huso in the range countries, 
through demonstrable law enforcement and cooperative management 
activities.

DATES: Comments must be received by July 29, 2004. Public hearing 
requests must be received by July 14, 2004.

ADDRESSES: Submit any comments, information, and questions by mail to 
the Chief, Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 750, Arlington, Virginia 22203, or 
by fax, 703-358-2276, or by e-mail, Scientificauthority@fws.gov. 
Comments and supporting information will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Field at the above address, or by 
phone, 703-358-1708; fax, 703-358-2276; or e-mail, 
Scientificauthority@fws.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On April 21, 2004, the Service published a final rule (69 FR 21425) 
to list beluga sturgeon, Huso huso, as threatened throughout its range 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). That listing in 50 CFR 17.11 will prohibit all trade (foreign, 
international, and interstate) in beluga sturgeon, except as provided 
in this special rule. We delayed the effective date of the listing 
until October 21, 2004, in order to gather public comments on this 
special rule, allow adequate time to address those comments, and 
promulgate a final special rule.
    The beluga sturgeon is a large fish from which highly valued beluga 
caviar is obtained. The species' range was reduced during the 20th 
century, and is now limited to the Caspian and Black Sea basins, which 
comprise the territorial waters of 11 countries (Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, 
Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, 
Turkmenistan, and Ukraine). Hereafter the term ``Black Sea'' describes 
both the Black Sea and Sea of Azov basins, which are connected via the 
Kerch Strait. The species is threatened by habitat modification and 
degradation, over-exploitation for trade, and limited natural 
reproduction. The species has benefited from a number of positive 
conservation measures for all Acipenseriformes species (sturgeons and 
paddlefishes), which are listed in Appendices I (2 species of 
sturgeons) and II (23 species of sturgeons and paddlefishes) of CITES. 
Although commercial trade in Appendix-I species is prohibited, CITES 
Appendix-II species (such as beluga sturgeon) may be traded 
commercially under a system of permits and international cooperation by 
the importing and exporting countries.
    Over the last several years, the CITES Parties that harvest and 
trade in sturgeons and sturgeon products (especially caviar) have been 
compelled by other CITES Parties to commit to cooperative quota 
setting, better trade controls, and new management systems to help 
ensure the species' conservation. We believe that conservation measures 
for Caspian Sea and Black Sea sturgeon species (like beluga sturgeon) 
that have been required by the CITES Standing Committee could be 
effective if fully implemented and expanded upon. We also believe that 
the most effective way to motivate range countries to implement these 
measures is to allow continued open access to U.S. commercial markets 
(currently responsible for 80 percent of beluga caviar trade) while 
requiring specific improvements in regional and national management 
programs for the species. Therefore, we are proposing this special 
rule, as permitted under Section 4(d) of the Act, to permit continued 
commercial importation of certain beluga sturgeon products subject to 
specific provisions. We believe this special rule is necessary and 
advisable for the species' conservation because it: (a) Offers the 
greatest incentive for range countries to remain engaged with the 
United States in Huso huso recovery and conservation; (b) exceeds the 
requirements of CITES for data reporting, management planning, and 
research transparency; and (c) will continue to impose requirements on 
the range countries after they satisfy current CITES stipulations.

Description of the Special Rule

    The purpose of this proposed special rule is to enhance 
conservation of wild beluga sturgeon by requiring properly designed and 
implemented fishery management programs in the range countries. We 
believe that the greatest benefit for the conservation of beluga 
sturgeon will be attained through continued involvement with range 
countries that have access to our commercial sturgeon markets, and by 
conditioning this access on proper management and recovery of wild 
populations in their waters. The alternative to this special rule is to 
strictly prohibit U.S. trade in beluga sturgeon products, except as 
permitted under Section 10 of the Act. We believe this alternative is 
less advisable than the special rule for a number of reasons, as 
described at the end of the section entitled ``Effects of the Special 
Rule.'' We intend to use this special rule to build upon the progress 
already made by the range countries in CITES forums, while recognizing 
that there are certain data gaps and information and management needs 
yet to be filled.
    For example, we note that since 2001 the range countries in the 
Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins have committed to cooperative 
management frameworks, including the Black Sea Sturgeon Management 
Group and the Commission on Aquatic Bioresources of the Caspian Sea.
    These bodies have set annual quotas for beluga and other sturgeon 
species in the two basins, and have representatives from each of the 
sturgeon-harvesting and -trading range countries in the respective 
regions. Despite the progress made by the range countries, we concur

[[Page 38865]]

with findings of recent reports from the CITES Secretariat (Anonymous, 
2002a; 2002b) on problems in national and regional Huso huso 
management. These include: (a) The absence of a formal, written 
management plan for Caspian Sea and Black Sea beluga sturgeon as called 
for in CITES Resolution Conf. 12.7 and Decision 12.50; (b) a lack of 
transparency in data analysis and quota setting; (c) continued high 
levels of poaching and illegal trade; and (d) a data-poor evaluation of 
hatchery protocols and restocking programs. Therefore, for those range 
countries wishing to export beluga sturgeon caviar and meat to the 
United States, this special rule would require:
    1. Submission of basin-wide beluga sturgeon management plans for 
the Black Sea and Caspian Sea range countries;
    2. Submission of national regulations that implement the basin-wide 
cooperative plan mentioned in item 1, including information on hatchery 
and restocking protocols and monitoring results;
    3. Submission of annual reports documenting management measures in 
place and current status of Huso huso in the given country;
    4. Labeling of exported, re-exported, and domestically traded 
beluga caviar products as per CITES Resolutions and Decisions;
    5. Biennial review by the Service of range country management and 
restocking programs for beluga sturgeon;
    6. Compliance with CITES provisions and recommendations (including 
permits) for beluga sturgeon imports into the United States; and
    7. Suspension of imports basin-wide or by country if the 
conservation status or management approach for Huso huso changes and 
compromises the recovery of beluga sturgeon in the wild. See discussion 
below for how such a suspension would be imposed.
    The trade in caviar and meat taken from wild or hatchery-origin 
beluga sturgeon and originating from the range countries would be 
exempt from threatened species permits under this special rule. The 
current range countries are Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, 
Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and 
Ukraine. For the purposes of this special rule, ``beluga caviar'' 
refers to processed unfertilized eggs from female Huso huso intended 
for human consumption. ``Beluga meat'' refers to excised muscle tissue 
of Huso huso destined for human consumption.
    This special rule would not exempt from threatened species permit 
requirements the international trade in live specimens of beluga 
sturgeon, including adults, gametes (eggs or sperm), fingerlings, and 
viable eggs. It would not exempt beluga sturgeon or any beluga products 
derived from aquaculture or grow-out operations outside the range 
countries from the provisions of the Act, which we believe could 
undermine the economic incentives for sustainable harvests of wild Huso 
huso in the range countries. Furthermore, non-range country aquaculture 
of the species, if exempted from provisions of the Act under this 
special rule, could utilize Huso huso broodstock from the range 
countries without any direct benefit to wild populations. We also 
believe that aquaculture or grow-out of foreign sturgeon species in the 
United States poses a risk to the recovery efforts for several native 
sturgeon species listed under the Act or under interstate recovery 
plans. This risk comes from the potential competition between native 
sturgeons and unintentionally released fish from facilities culturing 
foreign sturgeon and disease transmission from foreign species (ASMFC, 
1998; NMFS, 1998; USFWS and GSMFC, 1995). Therefore, import, export, 
re-export, or interstate or foreign commerce involving any beluga 
sturgeon products that originate from aquaculture operations outside 
the range countries would still 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)).
    As per CITES Resolution Conf. 12.9, and existing U.S. policy, this 
special rule would allow for the legal importation of personal effects 
of caviar. Under Resolution Conf. 12.9, individuals may import up to 
250 grams of any Appendix-II Acipenseriformes caviar without a CITES 
permit. This allowance would apply in the United States, and 
importation of personal effects of beluga caviar (as defined by the 
CITES Parties) would not require a threatened species permit under the 
Act, if the proposed rule is adopted. However, any trade suspension 
administratively implemented under this special rule would also 
prohibit the importation of beluga caviar personal effects.
    Under the proposed rule we will require the submission of certain 
documentation from the range countries, specifically:
    1. Within 6 months of the effective date of this special rule, if 
adopted, range countries wishing to export beluga caviar and meat to 
the United States must submit a written, basin-wide management plan 
that addresses Huso huso conservation. This plan must be agreed to by 
each country within the range of beluga sturgeon in the relevant basin 
(not just exporting nations). Presently, these include Bulgaria, 
Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine in the Black Sea and 
Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan in the Caspian 
Sea. This basin-wide management plan must contain the following 
elements:
    a. 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 over-fishing for that stock, and a 
rebuilding objective and schedule for that stock;
    b. A statement of standard management strategies to be utilized by 
the nations involved (e.g., size limits, target harvest rates, quotas, 
seasons, fishing gear, or effort caps);
    c. A complete statement of the specific regulatory, monitoring, and 
research requirements that each cooperating nation must implement to be 
in compliance with the management plan;
    d. A complete description of how stock survey data and fisheries 
data are used to establish annual catch and export quotas, including a 
full explanation of any models used and the assumptions underlying 
those models;
    e. 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 
(b); and
    f. A complete schedule by which nations must take particular 
actions to be in compliance with the plan.
    The Service's Division of Scientific Authority will immediately 
review these basin-wide management plans upon receipt for completeness 
and clarity. If any elements of the management plans are missing or 
unclear, we will ask the appropriate range states to provide additional 
information within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range 
states fail to respond or fail to submit basin-wide management plans by 
the specified deadline, or if we are unable to confirm that all range 
states are signatories to those plans, we will immediately suspend 
trade with all range states in the given basin (Caspian Sea or Black 
Sea) until we are satisfied that such management plans exist.
    2. Within 6 months of the effective date of this special rule, if 
adopted, all range countries wishing to export beluga caviar and meat 
to the United States must submit copies of national legislation and 
national fishery

[[Page 38866]]

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. Upon receipt, the Service's Division of 
Scientific Authority will immediately review these laws and regulations 
for completeness and clarity. If any elements of the national 
legislation or national fishery regulations are missing or unclear, we 
will ask the appropriate range states to provide additional information 
within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range states fail to 
respond or fail to submit copies of national laws and regulations by 
the specified deadline, we will immediately suspend trade with the 
given range states until we are satisfied that such laws and 
regulations are in effect.
    3. No later than November 1, 2005, and every year on that 
anniversary, all range states wishing to export beluga sturgeon 
products to the United States must submit an annual report to the 
Service, if this proposed rule is adopted. This annual report must 
contain, at a minimum:
    a. A description of the specific fishery regulations that affect 
the harvest of Huso huso in the respective range country, with any 
changes from the previous year highlighted;
    b. 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;
    c. 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, or other relevant 
subjects;
    d. A summary of law enforcement activities undertaken in the last 
year, and a description of any changes in programs to prevent poaching 
and smuggling;
    e. A summary of the revenues generated by the commercial 
exploitation of beluga sturgeon in the respective range country, and a 
summary of any documented conservation benefits resulting from the 
commercial harvest program in that country (e.g., revenues allocated to 
hatchery and re-stocking programs or research programs); and
    f. Export data for the previous calendar year.
    Starting in November 2005, the Service will conduct a review of 
information in the annual reports and any other pertinent information 
on wild beluga sturgeon conservation if the proposed rule is adopted. 
Thereafter, we will continue to conduct these reviews biennially. If 
any elements of the annual reports are missing or unclear, the Service 
will ask the appropriate range states to provide additional information 
within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range states fail to 
respond or fail to submit annual reports by the specified deadline, we 
will immediately suspend trade with the given range states. We propose 
to use these reviews to determine whether range country management 
programs are leading to recovery of wild beluga sturgeon stocks.
    Although we have no ability to regulate take or institute recovery 
plans for beluga sturgeon in the range countries, we have identified 
general short-term and long-term recovery objectives for beluga 
sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Seas. These objectives will help us 
gauge the efficacy of this special rule, and monitor progress toward 
beluga sturgeon restoration in the wild as indicated in the annual 
reports mentioned above. The short-term objective is to prevent further 
reduction of existing wild populations of beluga sturgeon. Baseline 
population indices for each beluga sturgeon stock are under development 
(Anonymous, 2002c) or in the planning stages (Anonymous, 2002a; ibid. 
2002b), and changes in these indices will be evaluated over 3- to 5-
year periods. The long-term recovery goal for beluga sturgeon is to 
establish self-sustaining stocks in the Caspian and Black Sea basins 
that can withstand directed fishing pressure. A self-sustaining stock 
is one in which the average rate of recruitment to the juvenile stage 
at least equals the average mortality rate across the population over a 
12- to 17-year period (the period required for beluga sturgeon to reach 
maturity).
    Based on the biennial review of annual reports, we propose to 
administratively suspend or restrict imports of beluga sturgeon 
products from the range countries if we determine that wild beluga 
sturgeon stock status worsens or threats to the species increase. Trade 
restrictions or suspensions may result basin-wide or for specific range 
countries under one or more of the following scenarios:
    1. Failure to submit any of the reports, legislation, and 
management plans described above, or failure to respond to requests for 
additional information;
    2. A change in regional cooperative management that threatens the 
recovery of wild beluga sturgeon;
    3. A change in range country laws or regulations that compromises 
beluga sturgeon recovery or survival in the wild;
    4. Adoption of scientifically unsound hatchery practices or 
restocking programs for beluga sturgeon;
    5. A decline in wild Huso huso populations, as documented in 
national reports outlined above or the scientific literature, that goes 
unaddressed by regional or national management programs;
    6. Failure to address poaching or smuggling in beluga sturgeon, 
their parts, or products in the range countries or re-exporting 
countries, as documented in national reports described above or other 
law enforcement sources;
    7. Failure of the range countries to address the loss of beluga 
sturgeon habitat quality or quantity;
    8. Failure of the range countries or re-exporting countries to 
follow the caviar labeling recommendations of the CITES Parties 
(currently embodied in Resolution Conf. 12.7);
    9. Recommendations from the CITES Standing Committee to suspend 
trade in beluga sturgeon from one or more countries; or
    10. Any other natural or human-induced phenomenon that threatens 
the survival or recovery of beluga sturgeon.
    Under this proposed special rule, if adopted, we will decide 
whether to suspend trade in beluga sturgeon products for an entire 
basin or on a country-specific basis, including re-exporting countries. 
This decision, made by the Service's Division of Scientific Authority 
in consultation with relevant experts, will depend on the scope of the 
problem observed, the magnitude of the threat to wild beluga sturgeon, 
and whether remedial action is necessary at a local, national, or 
region-wide scale. Upon determination that a trade restriction or 
suspension is necessary, we will publish our findings in the Federal 
Register with the following information:
    1. The problem(s) identified in the annual reports or other salient 
documents.
    2. The scope of the problem and the number of nations involved.
    3. The scope of the trade restriction or suspension we are 
imposing, including products covered, duration of the restriction or 
suspension, and criteria for lifting it.
    4. How the public can provide input, make comments, and recommend 
remedial action to withdraw the trade measures imposed.

Effects of the Special Rule

    Consistent with Sections 3(3) and 4(d) of the Act, this proposed 
special rule

[[Page 38867]]

would amend 50 CFR 17.44 to allow importation, re-exportation, and 
foreign and interstate commerce of beluga sturgeon caviar and meat, 
without a threatened species permit otherwise required by 50 CFR part 
17, if all requirements of the special rule and 50 CFR part 13 (General 
Permit Procedures), part 14 (Importation, Exportation, and 
Transportation of Wildlife), and part 23 (Endangered Species 
Convention--CITES) are met.
    This proposed special rule does not end protection for the species. 
For permit exemptions under this special rule, beluga sturgeon caviar 
and meat will have to originate from fish taken in range countries that 
have complied with the management and reporting requirements mentioned 
above, beluga caviar must be labeled as per the recommendations of the 
CITES Parties (even for U.S. domestic trade), and all beluga sturgeon 
products must be accompanied by valid CITES Appendix-II export permits 
or re-export certificates. The special rule will not undermine 
conservation efforts for wild beluga sturgeon in the range countries 
since import, export, re-export, and interstate and foreign commerce 
(involving people under U.S. jurisdiction) in live Huso huso (usually 
destined for aquaculture operations outside the range countries) would 
still require a threatened species permit. Issuance of these permits is 
predicated on some direct benefit to wild populations of beluga 
sturgeon in the range countries.
    Trade with the United States in beluga sturgeon products will be 
allowed only with countries that have designated both a CITES 
Management Authority and Scientific Authority, and have not been 
identified by the CITES Conference of the Parties, the CITES Standing 
Committee, or in a Notification from the CITES Secretariat as countries 
from which Parties are asked not to accept shipments of beluga sturgeon 
specimens or all CITES-listed species. This restriction will also apply 
to intermediary countries that re-export beluga sturgeon to the United 
States. The Service's Division of Management Authority will provide on 
request a list of those countries that have not designated either a 
Management Authority or a Scientific Authority, or that have been 
identified as a country from which Parties are asked not to accept 
shipments of specimens of any CITES-listed species that would include 
beluga sturgeon.
    As noted above, this special rule exempts certain trade in beluga 
caviar or meat from the issuance of threatened species permits. We will 
consider issuing threatened species permits for the import, export, re-
export of, or commerce in, other beluga sturgeon specimens when the 
activity enhances the conservation of the species in the wild or the 
other criteria for threatened species permits as described in 50 CFR 
17.32. In addition, all exports, re-exports, and imports of beluga 
sturgeon specimens will require the presentation of valid CITES permits 
and certificates as per 50 CFR part 23.
    As noted above, the Service's Division of Scientific Authority will 
conduct a review beginning in November 2005 and every 2 years 
thereafter based on information in the annual reports, and other 
available information, to determine whether range country and regional 
management programs are effectively achieving conservation benefits for 
wild beluga sturgeon populations. Trade restrictions or a trade 
suspension could be placed on a range country if the Service's Division 
of Scientific Authority administratively determines that the 
conservation or management status of beluga sturgeon in that country 
has changed such that continued recovery of the species is compromised. 
This provision gives the Service the ability to react effectively to 
potential conservation concerns that may emerge, such as persistent 
high levels of poaching in some areas, or changes in laws or 
regulations that appear to be detrimental to the species in the wild, 
or the lack of submission of the required annual reports and management 
plans.
    We believe the issuance of this special rule is necessary and 
advisable for the conservation of the species for the following 
reasons:
    1. Exempting the commercial trade in wild-origin and hatchery-
origin beluga caviar and meat from permit requirements, with 
conditions, will expedite transfer of specimens into and out of the 
United States without compromising the species' recovery. This 
expedited trade offers an incentive to range countries to meet the 
requirements in this special rule, which are stricter than those 
imposed by CITES and provide more detailed information on stock status 
and management measures than CITES reports.
    2. Without this special rule, we would prohibit all commercial 
trade in beluga caviar and meat unless approved via threatened species 
permits and appropriate CITES documentation. Such a restriction could 
reasonably be expected to: (a) Hamper or cease multilateral discussions 
between the United States and the range countries on beluga sturgeon 
conservation; (b) diminish or eliminate the revenue gained from U.S. 
beluga caviar markets that is used by range countries to support 
recovery programs for the species; (c) re-direct beluga sturgeon 
products from monitored international trade into unmonitored domestic 
markets; and (d) force us to rely on limited international trade data 
when assessing changes in harvest levels and market demand. All of 
these outcomes increase the conservation risks for the species while 
reducing the amount of data needed for informed decision making at the 
regional and international level.
    3. Nearly all of the recommendations promulgated by the CITES 
Standing Committee for the range countries have been achieved or nearly 
achieved, according to the CITES Secretariat. We are unable to predict, 
therefore, how the CITES system will require updates and systematic 
changes in range country management programs for Huso huso after the 
Standing Committee reviews compliance with the 2001 recommendations 
(including the so-called ``Paris Agreement'') after 2004. If pressure 
from CITES processes abates, this special rule offers our most 
promising tool for getting information from the range countries and 
influencing the recovery programs for beluga sturgeon throughout its 
range.

Comments Solicited

    The Service invites comments on this proposed rule. Comments should 
be sent to the Service's Division of Scientific Authority (see 
ADDRESSES section). Comments must be received by the date specified in 
the DATES section above.

Clarity of This Regulation

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations 
that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to make 
this rule easier to understand, including answers to questions such as 
the following: (1) Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated? (2) 
Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that interferes with 
its clarity? (3) Does the format of the rule (grouping or order of 
sections, use of headings, paragraphing, etc.) aid or reduce its 
clarity? (4) Would the rule be easier to understand if it were divided 
into more (but shorter) sections? (5) Is the description of the rule in 
the ``Supplementary Information'' section of the preamble helpful in 
understanding the proposed rule? What else could we do to make the rule 
easier to understand? Send a copy of any comments that concern how we 
could make this rule easier to

[[Page 38868]]

understand to Office of Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Interior, 
Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240. You also may e-
mail the comments to Exsec@ios.doi.gov.

Required Determinations

    A Record of Compliance was prepared for this proposed rule. A 
Record of Compliance certifies that a rulemaking action complies with 
the various statutory, Executive Order, and Department Manual 
requirements applicable to rulemaking. Without this proposed special 
rule, individuals subject to the jurisdiction of the United States 
would be prohibited from engaging in domestic, foreign, and 
international trade in beluga sturgeon meat and caviar except as 
permitted by Section 10 of the Act. Without this rule, anyone engaging 
in those activities would need to seek an authorization from us through 
a permit under section 10(a) of the Act. This process takes time and 
can involve an economic cost. The rule would allow these individuals to 
avoid the costs associated with abstaining from conducting these 
activities or with seeking a threatened species permit from us. These 
economic benefits, while important, do not rise to the level of 
``significant'' under the following required determinations.

Regulatory Planning and Review

    In accordance with the criteria in Executive Order 12866, the 
Office of Management and Budget has determined that this rule is not a 
significant regulatory action. This rule would not have an annual 
economic impact of more than $100 million, or significantly affect any 
economic sector, productivity, jobs, the environment, or other units of 
government. This rule would reduce the regulatory burden of the listing 
of the beluga sturgeon under the Act as a threatened species by 
providing certain exemptions to the section 9 prohibitions. These 
exemptions would reduce the economic costs of the listing; therefore, 
the economic effect of the rule would benefit citizens and the economy. 
This effect does not rise to the level of ``significant'' under 
Executive Order 12866. This rule will not create inconsistencies with 
other Federal agencies' actions. Other Federal agencies would be mostly 
unaffected by this proposed rule. This rule will not materially affect 
entitlements, grants, user fees, loan programs, or the rights and 
obligations of their recipients. Because this rule would allow 
individuals to continue otherwise prohibited activities without first 
obtaining individual authorization, the rule's impacts on affected 
individuals would be positive. This rule will not raise novel legal or 
policy issues. We have previously promulgated section 4(d) rules for 
other species.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    We have determined that this rule would not have a significant 
economic effect on a substantial number of small entities as defined 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). An initial 
regulatory flexibility analysis is not required, and a Small Entity 
Compliance Guide is not required. To assess the effects of the rule on 
small entities, the Service focused on the caviar import, re-export, 
and aquaculture industries in the United States because these are the 
entities most likely to be affected by the rule, particularly those 
engaged in beluga caviar importation, production, and distribution in 
the United States. In 2002, the most recent year for which we have 
import data, 15 businesses accounted for all of the foreign-source 
sturgeon caviar legally imported into the United States. It is possible 
that some of these businesses did not trade in beluga sturgeon. In 
those 15, the 10 largest importers accounted for 94 percent of all 
imported caviar (by weight), while the top 6 importers accounted for 85 
percent of the U.S. trade (by weight). Illegal imports are not readily 
quantifiable, and were not addressed further in our analysis.
    According to our analysis, no U.S. entities are involved in the 
commercial aquaculture of pure (i.e., non-hybridized) H. huso products 
such as caviar and meat. However, at least one U.S. institution is 
conducting feasibility studies on the commercial aquaculture of hybrid 
``bester'' sturgeon products. This type of aquaculture utilizes live 
beluga sturgeon and live sterlet (Acipenser ruthenus) to produce caviar 
in controlled, ex situ environments. Neither the threatened listing for 
beluga sturgeon nor the special rule affects trade in bester sturgeon 
products directly. However, there may be certain amounts of live beluga 
sturgeon required by these entities from the range countries. Given the 
apparently limited aquaculture use of beluga sturgeon, the section 9 
prohibition on trade in live and aquacultured beluga sturgeon should 
have no significant economic impact in U.S. markets.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act

    This rule is not a major rule under 5 U.S.C. 804(2), the Small 
Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. This rule would not have 
an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; would not 
cause a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual 
industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic 
regions; and would not have significant adverse effects on competition, 
employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of 
United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based 
enterprises.
    The Service examined each of the four exemptions of the Act's 
section 9 trade prohibitions that would be created by the special rule 
(import, re-export, interstate commerce, and foreign commerce). We 
determined that the foreign commerce exemption would have little or no 
economic effect (i.e., would not ease any significant cost that would 
have been imposed by section 9, without the rule). In foreign 
countries, this exemption would allow individuals and businesses 
subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in commerce involving beluga 
sturgeon products originating from range countries without the need for 
threatened species permits. We are not aware of such commerce 
currently, and therefore this exemption would create minimal benefits.
    The Service also examined the impact of the special rule on import, 
re-export, and interstate commerce in beluga sturgeon products 
originating from a range country. This exemption would not have 
significant economic effects in regard to scientific samples or 
personal effects moving in and out of the United States, given our 
recorded low volume of such transactions. However, this exemption would 
create significant benefits to beluga sturgeon traders commercially 
importing, re-exporting, and selling (across State lines) beluga 
sturgeon caviar and meat originating from the range countries. Without 
the rule, section 9 would prevent all current import, re-export, and 
interstate commerce, and traders would receive no income from lucrative 
U.S. markets for beluga sturgeon meat or caviar. With the rule, this 
international and interstate commerce could continue with an estimated 
annual net income of $16 million to $39 million per year for the 
traders, a beneficial effect of the rule.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501, 
et seq.,) this rule would not impose an unfunded mandate on State, 
local, or tribal governments or the private sector of more than $100 
million per year. This rule would not have a significant or unique 
effect on State, local, or tribal

[[Page 38869]]

governments or the private sector. A Small Government Agency Plan is 
not required.

Takings

    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, this rule does not have 
significant takings implications. By reducing the regulatory burden 
placed on affected individuals resulting from the listing of the beluga 
sturgeon as a threatened species, this rule would reduce the likelihood 
of potential takings. Affected individuals would have more freedom to 
pursue activities (i.e., import and re-export) involving beluga 
sturgeon without first obtaining individual authorization.

Federalism

    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, this rule does not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
federalism assessment.

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that this rule does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Executive Order.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations at 5 CFR 1320 
implement provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.). The OMB regulations at 5 CFR 1320.3(c) define a ``collection of 
information'' as the obtaining of information by or for an agency by 
means of identical questions posed to, or identical reporting, 
recordkeeping, or disclosure requirements imposed on, 10 or more 
persons. Furthermore, 5 CFR 1320.3(c)(4) specifies that ``10 or more 
persons'' refers to the persons to whom a collection of information is 
addressed by the agency within any 12-month period. For purposes of 
this definition, employees of the Federal Government are not included. 
A Federal agency 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 rule refers to CITES permits required for the export to the 
United States of beluga sturgeon caviar and meat. Our CITES permit 
applications are already approved by OMB under OMB control number 1018-
0093, which expires May 31, 2004. OMB is currently reviewing our 
request to renew the approval for OMB control number 1018-0093 for 
another 3 years.
    In addition, this rule would newly require certain other 
information, including national management plans, national regulations, 
annual reports, and labeling of shipments, to be provided to the 
Service by countries wishing to export beluga sturgeon products to the 
United States. The new information requirements do not, however, 
require OMB approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act, as explained 
below.
    Although we identify 11 countries in the current biological range 
of the beluga sturgeon, only 7 of these countries (Azerbaijan, 
Bulgaria, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Turkmenistan) 
currently have a national program to commercially harvest and export 
beluga sturgeon. In addition, Serbia and Montenegro (a federation 
bordering the Adriatic Sea) routinely declare catch and export quotas 
for beluga sturgeon, but the species is considered extirpated from the 
Adriatic Sea. Therefore, only those 7 countries with existing national 
harvest programs would be able to provide the information required by 
this rule to the Service. As such, the threshold of 10 or more 
respondents per year is not met, and OMB approval is not required. If, 
in the future, additional countries develop national programs to 
commercially harvest and export beluga sturgeon, and it therefore 
becomes necessary to collect information from 10 or more respondents 
per year, we will first obtain information collection approval from 
OMB.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have analyzed this rule in accordance with the criteria of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and have determined 
that this rule does not constitute a major Federal action significantly 
affecting the quality of the human environment within the meaning of 
Section 102(2)(C) of the NEPA, and it would not involve unresolved 
conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources (516 DM 
2.3A). Therefore, this rule is categorically excluded under 516 DM 2, 
Appendix 1.10.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations With Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951) and E.O. 13175, we have evaluated possible 
effects on federally recognized Indian Tribes. We have determined that, 
because no Indian trust resources occur within the range of the beluga 
sturgeon, this rule would have no effects on federally recognized 
Indian Tribes.

Executive Order 13211

    We have evaluated this proposed rule in accordance with E.O. 13211 
and have determined that this rule would have no effects on energy 
supply, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a 
significant energy action, and no Statement of Energy Effects is 
required.

Literature Cited

Anonymous, 2002a. Caspian Sea sturgeons. Interpretation and 
implementation of the Convention, significant trade in Appendix-II 
species. 47th meeting of the Standing Committee, 1-2 November 2002; 
Santiago, Chile. SC47 Doc. 11.
Anonymous, 2002b. Conservation of Acipenseriformes; implementation 
of Decisions 11.59 and 11.152. Notification to the Parties 2002/012. 
6 March 2002; Geneva, Switzerland.
Anonymous, 2002c. Report on results of complex interstate all-
Caspian Sea expedition on the assess of sturgeon species stocks. 
FSUI CaspNIRKh, Atyrau branch of KazNIRKh, AzerNIRKh, State Fishery 
Department of Turkmenistan, Iran Scientific Research Center 
(Shilat). Astrakhan, 2002.
ASMFC, 1998. Amendment 1 to the interstate fishery management plan 
for Atlantic sturgeon. Fishery management report no. 31 of the 
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. July 1998. 43 pp.
NMFS, 1998. Final recovery plan for the shortnose sturgeon, 
Acipenser brevirostrum. December 1998. U.S. Department of Commerce, 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine 
Fisheries Service. 104 pp.
USFWS and GSMFC, 1995. Gulf sturgeon recovery plan. U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. 
Atlanta, Georgia. 170 pp.

Author

    The primary author of this rule is John Field, Division of 
Scientific Authority, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 750, U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, Arlington, VA 22203 [telephone, 703-358-1708].

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Service hereby proposes 
to amend part 17, subpart B of chapter I, title 50 of the Code of 
Federal Regulations, as set forth below:

PART 17-- [AMENDED]

    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:


[[Page 38870]]


    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. In Sec.  17.11(h) revise the entry for the ``Sturgeon, beluga,'' 
under ``Fishes,'' on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to 
read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Species
------------------------------------    Historic Range        Vertebrate population where                                                     Status                                                     When      Critical     Special
   Common name      Scientific name                             endangered or threatened                                                                                                                listed      habitat      rules
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                                                              * * * * * * *
FISHES

                                                                                                              * * * * * * *
Sturgeon, beluga.  Huso huso.......  Azerbaijan,           Entire...........................  T.....................................................................................................  743.......  NA........  17.44 (y)
                                      Bulgaria, Croatia,
                                      Czech Republic,
                                      Georgia, Hungary,
                                      Islamic Republic of
                                      Iran, Kazakhstan,
                                      Republic of
                                      Moldova, Romania,
                                      Russian Federation,
                                      Turkey,
                                      Turkmenistan,
                                      Ukraine, Yugoslavia
                                      (Caspian Sea, Black
                                      Sea, Adriatic Sea,
                                      Sea of Azov, and
                                      all rivers in their
                                      watersheds).
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    3. Amend Sec.  17.44 by adding paragraph (y) to read as follows:


Sec.  17.44  Special rules--fishes.

* * * * *
    (y) Beluga sturgeon. This paragraph applies to the threatened 
beluga sturgeon (Huso huso).
    (1) How are various terms defined in this special rule? In addition 
to the definitions specified in Sec.  10.12 of subchapter B of this 
chapter, we define certain terms that specifically apply to the beluga 
sturgeon trade and this special rule as follows:
    Aquacultured beluga sturgeon products. Eggs, larvae, fingerlings, 
or other products derived from Huso huso bred in captivity or grown in 
captivity for commercial purposes.
    Beluga caviar. Processed unfertilized eggs from female Huso huso 
intended for human consumption, including products containing such eggs 
(e.g., cosmetics).
    Beluga meat. Excised muscle tissue of Huso huso destined for human 
consumption.
    Black Sea. The contiguous waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of 
Azov.
    CITES. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species 
of Wild Fauna and Flora.
    Hatchery-origin beluga sturgeon. Specimens of Huso huso bred in 
captivity solely in the range countries, primarily for reintroduction 
and stock enhancement purposes.
    Live beluga sturgeon. Any living specimen of Huso huso, including 
viable unfertilized or fertilized eggs, adults, fingerlings, and 
juveniles.
    Range countries. Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, 
Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.
    Re-export. Export of beluga sturgeon specimens that were previously 
imported.
    Wild beluga sturgeon. Specimens of Huso huso born and reared in the 
natural marine environment within the current or former geographic 
range of the species.
    (2) What activities involving beluga sturgeon are prohibited by 
this rule?
    (i) International trade in beluga sturgeon. Except as provided in 
paragraph (y)(3) of this section, all prohibitions and provisions of 
Sec.  17.31(a) apply to the international trade in beluga sturgeon, 
including its parts and derivatives. This rule provides no exemption to 
the prohibitions and provisions of Sec.  17.32 for aquacultured beluga 
sturgeon products produced outside the range countries or live beluga 
sturgeon.
    (ii) Trade without CITES documents. Except as provided in paragraph 
(y)(3) of this section, you may not import, export, or re-export, or 
present for export or re-export beluga sturgeon or beluga sturgeon 
products without valid CITES permits and other permits and licenses 
issued under parts 13, 17, and 23 of this chapter.
    (iii) Commercial activity. Except as provided in paragraph (y)(3) 
of this section and Sec.  17.32, you may not sell or offer for sale, 
deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign 
commerce in the course of a commercial activity any beluga sturgeon or 
beluga sturgeon products.
    (iv) It is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of 
the United States to commit, attempt to commit, solicit to commit, or 
cause to be committed any acts described in paragraphs (y)(2)(ii) and 
(iii) of this section.
    (3) What activities are exempted from threatened species permits by 
this rule?
    (i) Import, re-export, and interstate commerce involving certain 
caviar and meat obtained from beluga sturgeon. You may import, re-
export, or conduct interstate or foreign commerce in beluga sturgeon 
caviar and meat without a threatened species permit issued according to 
Sec.  17.32 only if the caviar and meat are derived from wild or 
hatchery-origin beluga sturgeon that were caught and processed in the 
range countries. Also, the provisions in parts 13, 14, and 23 of this 
chapter and the following requirements must be met:
    (A) Any beluga caviar must comply with all CITES labeling 
requirements, as defined in relevant Resolutions or Decisions of the 
Conference of the Parties, including beluga caviar in interstate 
commerce in the United States. All individuals or businesses in the 
United States wishing to engage in interstate domestic commerce of 
beluga sturgeon caviar must follow the CITES caviar labeling 
requirements.
    (B) The shipment must be accompanied by a valid CITES permit or 
certificate.
    (C) For each shipment covered by this exception, the country of 
origin and each country of re-export, and the country of import 
involved in the trade of a particular shipment, must have designated 
both a CITES Management Authority and Scientific Authority, and have 
not been identified by the CITES Conference of the Parties, the CITES 
Standing Committee, or in a Notification from the CITES Secretariat as 
a country

[[Page 38871]]

from which Parties should not accept permits for beluga sturgeon or all 
CITES-listed species in general.
    (D) The range country from which the beluga sturgeon caviar or meat 
originated has complied with all of the requirements shown in paragraph 
(y)(4) of this section, and none of the exporting, importing, or re-
exporting countries involved in the commercial activity has been 
subject to an administrative trade restriction or suspension as 
outlined in paragraphs (y)(5) and (6) of this section.
    (ii) Import and re-export of noncommercial personal or household 
effects. Article VII(3) of the CITES Convention recognizes a limited 
exemption for the international movement of personal and household 
effects, including specimens of beluga sturgeon.
    (A) Stricter national measures. The exemption for personal and 
household effects does not apply if a country prohibits or restricts 
the import, export, or re-export of the item.
    (1) You or your shipment must be accompanied by any document 
required by a country under its stricter national measures.
    (2) In the United States, you must obtain any permission needed 
under other regulations in this subchapter.
    (B) Required CITES documents. You must obtain a CITES document for 
personal or household effects and meet the requirements of this part if 
one of the following applies:
    (1) The Management Authority of the importing, exporting, or re-
exporting country requires a CITES document.
    (2) You or your shipment does not meet all of the conditions for an 
exemption as provided in paragraphs (y)(3)(ii)(C) through (E) of this 
section.
    (3) The personal or household effect exceeds 250 grams of beluga 
caviar. To import or re-export more than 250 grams, you must have a 
valid CITES document for the entire quantity.
    (C) Personal effects. You do not need a CITES document to import or 
re-export any part, product, derivative, or manufactured article of a 
legally acquired beluga sturgeon specimen to or from the United States 
if all of the following conditions are met:
    (1) No living beluga sturgeon is included.
    (2) You personally own and possess the item for noncommercial 
purposes, including any item intended as a personal gift.
    (3) The item and quantity of items are reasonably necessary or 
appropriate for the nature of your trip or stay.
    (4) You are either wearing the item as clothing or an accessory or 
taking it as part of your personal baggage, which is being carried by 
you or checked as baggage on the same plane, boat, car, or train as 
you.
    (5) The item was not mailed or shipped separately.
    (D) Household effects. You do not need a CITES document to import 
or re-export any part, product, derivative, or manufactured article of 
a legally acquired beluga sturgeon specimen that is part of a shipment 
of your household effects when moving your residence to or from the 
United States, if all of the following conditions are met:
    (1) No living beluga sturgeon is included.
    (2) You personally own the item and are moving it for noncommercial 
purposes.
    (3) The item and quantity of items are reasonably necessary or 
appropriate for household use.
    (4) You import or re-export your household effects within 1 year of 
changing your residence from one country to another.
    (5) The shipment, or shipments if you cannot move all of your 
household effects at one time, contains only items purchased, 
inherited, or otherwise acquired before you moved your residence.
    (E) Trade restrictions. Regardless of the provisions above for 
personal and household effects, any trade suspension or trade 
restriction administratively imposed by the Service under paragraphs 
(y)(5) or (6) of this section could also apply to personal and 
household effects of beluga caviar.
    (4) What must beluga sturgeon range countries do to be authorized 
under the special rule to export to the United States? The following 
requirements apply to the range countries wishing to export beluga 
caviar or beluga meat to the United States without the need for a 
threatened species permit issued under Sec.  17.32. These requirements 
apply to all shipments of beluga caviar and beluga meat that originate 
in the range countries, even if the shipments are re-exported to the 
United States via an intermediary country. (See paragraph (y)(6) of 
this section for more information on the Service's biennial reviews 
under the special rule.)
    (i) Basin-wide beluga sturgeon management plans. By [insert date 6 
months after the effective date of this special rule], each range 
country wishing to export beluga caviar or beluga meat to the United 
States without the need for a threatened species permit issued under 
Sec.  17.32 must submit a copy of a cooperative management plan for 
their respective basin (i.e., Black Sea or Caspian Sea) that addresses 
Huso huso conservation. Each of these two basin-wide management plans 
must be agreed to by all of the range countries (not just exporting 
nations) in the Black Sea or the Caspian Sea, as appropriate. Upon 
receipt, the Service's Division of Scientific Authority will 
immediately review these basin-wide management plans for completeness 
and clarity. If any elements of the management plans are missing or 
unclear, we will ask the appropriate range states to provide additional 
information within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range 
states fail to respond or fail to submit basin-wide management plans by 
the specified deadline, or if we are unable to confirm that all range 
states are signatories to those plans, we will immediately suspend 
trade with all range states in the given basin (Caspian Sea or Black 
Sea) until we are satisfied that such management plans exist. 
Submission of documents in English may help expedite the Service's 
review. These cooperative management plans must contain the following 
elements:
    (A) A clear statement of the recovery and management objectives of 
the plan, including a specification of the stock(s) concerned, a 
definition of what constitutes over-fishing for that stock, and a 
rebuilding objective and schedule for that stock;
    (B) A statement of standard regulations (e.g., size limits, target 
harvest rates, quotas, seasons, fishing gear, or effort caps) to be 
utilized by the nations involved;
    (C) A complete statement of the specific regulatory, monitoring, 
and research requirements that each cooperating nation must implement 
to be in compliance with the management plan;
    (D) A complete description of how stock survey data and fisheries 
data are used to establish annual catch and export quotas, including a 
full explanation of any models used and the assumptions underlying 
those models;
    (E) 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 
(y)(4)(i)(B) of this section; and
    (F) A complete schedule by which nations must take particular 
actions to be in compliance with the plan.
    (ii) National regulations. By [insert date 6 months after the 
effective date of this special rule], each range country wishing to 
export beluga caviar or beluga meat to the United States under this 
special rule must provide us with copies of national legislation and

[[Page 38872]]

regulations that implement the basin-wide cooperative management plan 
described in paragraph (y)(4)(i) of this section, including regulations 
pertaining to the harvest, trade, aquaculture, restocking, and 
processing of beluga sturgeon. Upon receipt, the Service's Division of 
Scientific Authority will immediately review these basin-wide 
management plans for completeness and clarity. If any elements of the 
national legislation or national fishery regulations are missing or 
unclear, we will ask the appropriate range states to provide additional 
information within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range 
states fail to respond or fail to submit copies of national laws and 
regulations by the specified deadline, we will immediately suspend 
trade with the given range states until we are satisfied that such laws 
and regulations are in effect. Submission of documents in English may 
help expedite the Service's review.
    (iii) Annual report. Range country governments wishing to export 
specimens of beluga sturgeon caviar or meat to the United States under 
this special rule will need to provide an annual report containing the 
most recent information available on the status of the species, 
following the information guidelines specified below. The Service must 
receive the first annual report no later than November 1, 2005, and 
every year thereafter on the anniversary of that date. Starting in 
November 2005, and thereafter on a biennial basis, the Service will 
conduct a review of information in the annual reports and any other 
pertinent information on wild beluga sturgeon conservation. If any 
elements of the annual reports are missing or unclear, the Service will 
ask the appropriate range states to provide additional information 
within 60 days of the date we contact them. If the range states fail to 
respond or fail to submit annual reports by the specified deadline, we 
will immediately suspend trade with the given range states. Submission 
of documents in English may help expedite the Service's review. We 
propose to use these reviews to determine whether range country 
management programs are leading to recovery of wild beluga sturgeon 
stocks. For each range country, the following information must be 
provided in the annual report:
    (A) A description of the specific fishery regulations that affect 
the harvest of Huso huso in the respective range country, with any 
changes from the previous year highlighted;
    (B) A description of any revisions to the cooperative management 
program mentioned in paragraph (y)(4)(i) of this section, including any 
new models, assumptions, or equations used to set harvest and export 
quotas;
    (C) New information obtained in the last year on beluga sturgeon 
distribution, stock size, models used for quota-setting, spawning 
activity, habitat use, hatchery programs and results, or other relevant 
subjects;
    (D) A summary of law enforcement activities undertaken in the last 
year, and a description of any changes in programs to prevent poaching 
and smuggling;
    (E) A summary of the revenues generated by the commercial 
exploitation of beluga sturgeon in the respective range country, and a 
summary of any documented conservation benefits resulting from the 
commercial harvest program in that country (e.g., revenues allocated to 
hatchery/re-stocking programs or research programs); and
    (F) Export data for the previous calendar year.
    (iv) Caviar labeling. All caviar shipments imported into the United 
States must follow the CITES caviar labeling requirements as agreed to 
in the relevant Resolutions and Decisions of the CITES Parties.
    (v) CITES compliance. Except as provided in paragraph (y)(3)(ii) of 
this section, all shipments of beluga sturgeon specimens, including 
those exempted from threatened species permits under this special rule, 
will require accompanying valid CITES permits and certificates.
    (vi) Initial reporting period. Until [insert date 6 months after 
the effective date of this rule], no threatened species permits will be 
required for the import, re-export, or interstate or foreign commerce 
of beluga sturgeon caviar and meat that originated in the range 
countries, in order to provide the range countries time to submit the 
required documentation. After this 6-month period, the exemption from 
threatened species permits will continue only under the terms and 
conditions specified in paragraphs (y)(4)(i) through (v) of this 
section.
    (5) How will the Service inform the public of CITES restrictions in 
trade of beluga sturgeon? We will issue an information bulletin that 
identifies a restriction or suspension of trade in specimens of beluga 
sturgeon and post it on our websites (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://le.fws.gov and http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://international.fws.gov
) and at our staffed wildlife ports of entry if 
any criterion in paragraphs (y)(5)(i) or (ii) of this section is met:
    (i) The country is listed in a Notification to the Parties by the 
CITES Secretariat as lacking a designated Management Authority or 
Scientific Authority for the issuance of valid CITES documents or their 
equivalent.
    (ii) The country is identified in any action adopted by the 
Conference of the Parties to the Convention, the Convention's Standing 
Committee, or in a Notification issued by the CITES Secretariat, as a 
country from which Parties are asked not to accept shipments of 
specimens of beluga sturgeon or all CITES-listed species. A listing of 
all countries that have not designated both a Management Authority and 
Scientific Authority, or that have been identified as a country from 
which Parties should not accept permits, is available by writing to: 
Division of Management Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 
N. Fairfax Drive, Room 700, Arlington, VA 22203.
    (6) How will the Service set trade restrictions or prohibitions 
under the special rule? The Service's Division of Scientific Authority 
will conduct a biennial review of beluga sturgeon conservation based on 
information in the cooperative basin-wide management plans, national 
regulations and laws, and annual reports (submitted as per paragraph 
(y)(4) of this section). We will combine that review with a review of 
other relevant sources (e.g., scientific literature, law enforcement 
data, government-to-government consultations) to determine whether 
range country management programs are effectively achieving 
conservation benefits for beluga sturgeon. Based on this information, 
or the failure to obtain it, the Service may restrict trade from a 
range country, a re-exporting intermediary country, or an entire basin 
(i.e., the Caspian Sea or Black Sea) if we determine that the 
conservation or management status of beluga sturgeon has changed and 
the continued recovery of beluga sturgeon in that country or basin may 
be compromised. The decision to restrict trade in beluga sturgeon 
products on a national, basin, or region-wide scale will depend on the 
scope of the problem observed, the magnitude of the threat to wild 
beluga sturgeon, and whether remedial action is necessary at a 
national, basin, or region-wide scale.
    (i) Trade restrictions or suspensions may result basin-wide or for 
specific range countries under one or more of the following scenarios:
    (A) Failure to submit any of the reports, legislation, and 
management plans described above, or failure to respond to requests for 
additional information;

[[Page 38873]]

    (B) A change in regional cooperative management that threatens the 
recovery of wild beluga sturgeon;
    (C) A change in range country laws or regulations that compromises 
beluga sturgeon recovery or survival in the wild;
    (D) Adoption of scientifically unsound hatchery practices or 
restocking programs for beluga sturgeon;
    (E) A decline in wild Huso huso populations, as documented in 
national reports outlined above or the scientific literature, that goes 
unaddressed by regional or national management programs;
    (F) Failure to address poaching or smuggling in beluga sturgeon, 
their parts, or products in the range countries or re-exporting 
countries, as documented in national reports described above or other 
law enforcement sources;
    (G) Failure of the range countries to address the loss of beluga 
sturgeon habitat quality or quantity;
    (H) Failure of the range countries or re-exporting countries to 
follow the caviar labeling recommendations of the CITES Parties 
(currently embodied in Resolution Conf. 12.7);
    (I) Recommendations from the CITES Standing Committee to suspend 
trade in beluga sturgeon from one or more countries; or
    (J) Any other natural or human-induced phenomenon that threatens 
the survival or recovery of beluga sturgeon.
    (ii) We will publish an information notice in the Federal Register 
if the Service's Division of Scientific Authority administratively 
suspends or restricts imports of beluga sturgeon products from the 
range countries or re-exports of beluga sturgeon products from the 
United States after determining that wild beluga sturgeon stock status 
worsens or threats to the species increase.

    Dated: June 22, 2004.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 04-14795 Filed 6-25-04; 11:50 am]
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