Issued on October 21, 2004

Contact: Patricia W. Fisher 202-208-5634
Mitch Snow 202-208-5634


SERVICE ISSUES INTERIM RULE FOR
THREATENED BELUGA STURGEON

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an interim special rule that will allow trade in products derived from threatened beluga sturgeon as long as that trade is consistent with regulatory requirements already in force under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The interim rule also provides for the continuation of ongoing international cooperative conservation efforts to ensure the survival of the species in the wild.

A global agreement that monitors trade in endangered and threatened wildlife through a system of permits, CITES also regulates, when applicable, national harvest and export quotas for species in trade. Beluga sturgeon is listed in Appendix II of CITES, a designation which permits legal commercial trade in a listed species provided it is accompanied by valid CITES documentation. In order to issue a CITES Appendix II permit for commercial trade in beluga sturgeon and its products, an exporting country must ensure the specimens were legally acquired, do not exceed national export quotas registered with CITES, and are not detrimental to
the survival of the species. Furthermore, exporting countries may not exceed national export quotas which are registered annually with the CITES Secretariat, an additional conservation measure required for all commercially traded sturgeon species.

The interim special rule is intended to notify the public of the procedures the Service is using to allow legal trade to continue during the interval between the effective date of October 21, 2004 for the listing of threatened beluga sturgeon under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (Act) and the publication of a final special 4(d) rule which is expected by the end of January 2005.

This interim notice does not address or discuss comments received during the public comment period for the Special 4(d) Rule to Control the Trade in Threatened Beluga Sturgeon which was published in the June 20,2004 Federal Register on the proposed special 4(d) rule. It does, however, give the Service additional time to evaluate and consider all of the comments it received in response to the proposed rule.

A final determination to list beluga sturgeon as threatened under the Act was published on April 21, 2004; however, the listing's effective date was delayed until October 21, 2004.

For more information on the proposed special rule and this interim rule, go to: http://www.international.fws.gov.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.