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[Federal Register: March 25, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 57)]
[Notices]               
[Page 14481-14485]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr25mr99-114]


[[Page 14481]]

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DEPARTMENT OF STATE

[Public Notice 3013]

 
Notice of Proposed Revisions to Guidelines for the Implementation 
of Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 Relating to the Protection of Sea 
Turtles in Shrimp Trawl Fishing Operations

SUMMARY: Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 ("Section 609") provides 
that shrimp harvested with technology that may adversely affect certain 
species of sea turtles may not be imported into the United States. This 
import prohibition does not apply if the Department of State certifies 
to Congress that the harvesting nation has a regulatory program and an 
incidental take rate comparable to that of the United States, or, 
alternatively, that the fishing environment in the harvesting nation 
does not pose a threat of the incidental taking of sea turtles. In 
response to recommendations of the Dispute Settlement Body of the World 
Trade Organization, the Department of State is proposing several 
revisions to the guidelines issued by the Department on August 28, 1998 
for use in making such certifications. In order to comply with 
provisions of the Uruguay Round Trade Agreements Act, 16 U.S.C. 3533, 
the Department of State is requesting public comment on Sections II and 
III of this notice. Section I provides background information. Comments 
should be forwarded to the Office of Marine Conservation at the address 
listed below no later than 30 days after publication of this notice.
    The August 28, 1998 guidelines contained additional information on 
the Department's policy with respect to certain aspects of the 
implementation of Section 609 for which no revisions are currently 
being proposed. The Department's policy with respect to those aspects, 
as set forth in the August 28, 1998 guidelines, remains unchanged.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Bill Gibbons-Fly or Mr. David 
Hogan, Office of Marine Conservation, Bureau of Oceans and 
International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Department of 
State, Washington D.C., telephone number (202) 647-2335. Comments 
should be submitted to the Department of State, Office of Marine 
Conservation, Room 5806, 2201 C Street NW., Washington, D.C. 20520.

I. Supplementary Information

A. Section 609

    Section 609 provides that shrimp or products from shrimp harvested 
with commercial fishing technology that may adversely affect certain 
species of sea turtles protected under U.S. law and regulations may not 
be imported into the United States. This import prohibition does not 
apply if the President certifies to Congress by May 1, 1991, and 
annually thereafter, that:
    a. The government of the harvesting nation has provided documentary 
evidence of the adoption of a regulatory program governing the 
incidental taking of such sea turtles in the course of such harvesting 
that is comparable to that of the United States; and
    b. The average rate of that incidental taking by vessels of the 
harvesting nation is comparable to the average rate of incidental 
taking of sea turtles by United States vessels in the course of such 
harvesting; or
    c. The particular fishing environment of the harvesting nation does 
not pose a threat of the incidental taking of such sea turtles in the 
course of such harvesting.
    The President has delegated to the Secretary of State the authority 
to make certifications pursuant to Section 609 (Memorandum of December 
19, 1990; 56 FR 357; January 4, 1991).
    The relevant species of sea turtles are: loggerhead (Caretta 
caretta), Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), green (Chelonia mydas), 
leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys 
imbricata).

B. Summary of WTO Recommendations and Measures Taken To Implement Those 
Recommendations

    On November 6, 1998, the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World 
Trade Organization (WTO) adopted a report of the WTO Appellate Body in 
a case brought by India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand challenging 
the import prohibitions of Section 609. The Appellate Body report found 
that Section 609 itself was not inconsistent with U.S. obligations 
under the WTO Agreement and was, in fact, covered by the WTO provision 
relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources. At the 
same time, however, the Appellate Body report found that certain 
aspects of the manner in which Section 609 was being implemented, in 
their cumulative effect, were inconsistent with U.S. obligations under 
the WTO Agreement. The Appellate Body report recommended that the 
United States revise its implementation of Section 609 accordingly.
    On November 25, 1998, the United States announced its intention to 
implement the recommendations and rulings of the DSB in a manner which 
is consistent not only with U.S. WTO obligations, but also with the 
firm commitment of the United States to the protection of threatened 
and endangered species, including sea turtles.
    The following paragraphs summarize the findings of the WTO 
Appellate Body report to which the revisions to the Guidelines proposed 
in this notice respond:
    (1) WTO Finding: While Section 609 requires as a condition of 
certification that foreign programs for the protection of sea turtles 
in the course of shrimp trawl fishing be comparable to the U.S. 
program, the practice of the Department of State in making 
certification decisions was to require foreign programs to be 
essentially the same as the U.S. program. In assessing foreign 
programs, the Department of State should be more flexible in making 
such determinations and, in particular, should take into consideration 
different conditions that may exist in the territories of those other 
nations.
    Analysis: In response to this recommendation, the proposed 
revisions to the guidelines make clear that the Department of State 
will fully consider any evidence that another nation may present that 
its program to protect sea turtles in the course of shrimp trawl 
fishing is comparable to the U.S. program. In reviewing such evidence, 
the Department will take into account any demonstrated differences in 
foreign shrimp fishing conditions, to the extent that such differences 
may affect the extent to which sea turtles are subject to capture and 
drowning in the commercial shrimp trawl fisheries. The Department will 
also take such differences into account in making related 
determinations under Section 609.
    (2) WTO Finding: The certification process under Section 609 is 
neither transparent nor predictable and denies to exporting nations 
basic fairness and due process. There is no formal opportunity for an 
applicant nation to be heard or to respond to arguments against it. 
There is no formal written, reasoned decision. But for notice in the 
Federal Register, nations are not notified of decisions specifically. 
There is no procedure for review of, or appeal from, a denial of 
certification.
    Analysis: In response to this finding, the proposed revisions to 
the guidelines institute a broad range of procedural changes in the 
manner in which the Department of State will make certification 
decisions under Section 609. The intention is to create a more 
transparent and predictable process for reviewing foreign programs and 
for making decisions on certifications and other related matters. The 
proposed

[[Page 14482]]

revisions ensure that the governments of harvesting nations will be 
notified on a timely basis of all pending and final decisions and are 
provided a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to present any 
additional information relevant to the certification decision. The 
governments of harvesting nations that are not granted a certification 
shall receive a full explanation of the reasons that the certification 
was denied. Steps that the government must take to receive a 
certification in the future shall be clearly identified. The following 
paragraphs summarize certain other findings of the WTO Appellate Body 
report to which the United States Government is responding, or has 
responded.
    (3) WTO Finding: At the time the WTO complaint arose, the United 
States did not permit imports of shrimp harvested by vessels using TEDs 
comparable in effectiveness to those used in the United States, unless 
the harvesting nation was certified pursuant to Section 609. In other 
words, shrimp caught using methods identical to those employed in the 
United States had been excluded from the United States market solely 
because they had been caught in waters of uncertified nations.
    Analysis: For reasons unrelated to the WTO case, the Department of 
State modified its implementing Guidelines on August 28, 1998 to allow 
the importation of shrimp harvested by vessels using TEDs, even if the 
exporting nation is not certified pursuant to Section 609. This policy 
had, in fact, been in place as of April 19, 1996, but had been 
overturned by a domestic court ruling that was subsequently vacated. 
The provisions of the August 28, 1998 Guidelines pertaining to the 
importation of such shrimp remain in effect.
    (4) WTO Finding: The United States failed to engage the nations 
that brought the complaint, as well as other WTO Members exporting 
shrimp to the United States, in serious across-the-board negotiations, 
apart from negotiations on the Inter-American Convention for the 
Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, for the purpose of 
concluding agreements to conserve sea turtles before enforcing the 
import prohibition on those other Members.
    Analysis: As early as 1996, the United States proposed to 
governments in the Indian Ocean region the negotiation of an agreement 
to protect sea turtles in that region, but received no positive 
response. In 1998, even before the WTO Appellate Body issued its 
report, the United States reiterated its desire to enter into such 
negotiations with affected governments, including those that had 
brought the WTO complaint. During the summer of 1998, the United States 
informally approached several governments in the Indian Ocean region, 
as well as numerous non-governmental organizations, in an effort to get 
such negotiations underway. On October 14, 1998, following the issuance 
of the Appellate Body report, but before its adoption by the DSB, the 
Department of State formally renewed this proposal to high-level 
representatives of the embassies of the four complainants in 
Washington, D.C., and delivered the same message to a wide range of 
nations in the Indian Ocean region through our embassies abroad. In 
each case, the United States presented a list of "elements" that we 
believe could form the basis of such an agreement. We also made clear 
the willingness of the United States to support the negotiating process 
in a number of ways. We are continuing to pursue this initiative.
    (5) WTO Finding: As compared to the 14 nations of the Caribbean and 
western Atlantic that were initially affected by Section 609, the 
United States provided less technical assistance to those nations that 
first became affected by the law at the end of 1995 as a result of the 
decision of the U.S. Court of International Trade.
    Analysis: The United States has renewed, and hereby reiterates, its 
offer of technical training in the design, construction, installation 
and operation of TEDs to any government that requests it. Any 
government that wants to receive such training need only make such a 
request to the United States in writing, through diplomatic channels. 
The United States will make every effort to meet such requests. 
Training programs will be scheduled on a first come, first served 
basis, although special efforts will be made to accommodate nations 
whose governments are making good faith efforts to adopt and maintain 
nation-wide TEDs programs and who have not previously received such 
training. In this way, the United States hopes to create an additional 
incentive in favor of such programs.

C. The U.S. Program

    Since certification decisions under Section 609(b)(2) (A) and (B) 
are based on comparability with the U.S. program governing the 
incidental taking of sea turtles in the course of shrimp harvesting, an 
explanation of the components of that program follows. The U.S. program 
requires that commercial shrimp trawl vessels use TEDs approved in 
accordance with standards established by the U.S. National Marine 
Fisheries Service (NMFS), in areas and at times when there is a 
likelihood of intercepting sea turtles. The goal of this program is to 
protect sea turtle populations from further decline by reducing the 
incidental mortality of sea turtles in commercial shrimp trawl 
operations.
    The commercial shrimp trawl fisheries in the United States in which 
there is a likelihood of intercepting sea turtles occur in the 
temperate waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean from 
North Carolina to Texas. With very limited exceptions, all U.S. 
commercial shrimp trawl vessels operating in these waters must use 
approved TEDs at all times and in all areas. The only exceptions to 
this requirement are as follows:
    a. Vessels equipped exclusively with wing nets, skimmer trawls, and 
pusher-head trawls when used in conjunction with certain restricted tow 
times are not required to use TEDs because their operations do not pose 
a threat to sea turtles. Vessels equipped with barred beam trawls and/
or barred roller trawls are not required to use TEDs. Single try nets 
(with less than a twelve foot headrope and fifteen foot rope) are not 
required to use TEDs.
    b. Vessels whose nets are retrieved exclusively by manual rather 
than mechanical means are not required to use TEDs because the lack of 
a mechanical retrieval system necessarily limits tow times to a short 
duration so as not to pose a threat of the incidental drowning of sea 
turtles. This exemption applies only to vessels that have no power or 
mechanical-advantage trawl retrieval system.
    c. In exceptional circumstances, where NMFS determines that the use 
of TEDs would be impracticable because of special environmental 
conditions such as the presence of algae, seaweed, or debris, or that 
TEDs would be ineffective in protecting sea turtles in particular 
areas, vessels are permitted to restrict tow times instead of using 
TEDs. Such exceptions are generally limited to two periods of 30 days 
each. In practice, NMFS has permitted such exceptions only rarely.
    With these limited exceptions, all other commercial shrimp trawl 
vessels operating in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction in which there 
is a likelihood of intercepting sea turtles must use TEDs at all times. 
For more information on the U.S. program governing the incidental 
taking of sea turtles in the course of commercial shrimp trawl 
harvesting, see 50 CFR 227.17 and 50 CFR 227.72(e).

[[Page 14483]]

II. Section 609

A. Shrimp Harvested in a Manner Not Harmful to Sea Turtles

    The Department of State has determined that the import prohibitions 
imposed pursuant to Section 609 do not apply to shrimp or products of 
shrimp harvested under the following conditions, since such harvesting 
does not adversely affect sea turtles:
    a. Shrimp harvested in an aquaculture facility in which the shrimp 
spend at least 30 days in pond prior to being harvested.
    b. Shrimp harvested by commercial shrimp trawl vessels using TEDs 
comparable in effectiveness to those required in the United States.
    c. Shrimp harvested exclusively by means that do not involve the 
retrieval of fishing nets by mechanical devices or by vessels using 
gear that, in accordance with the U.S. program described above, would 
not required TEDs.
    d. Shrimp harvested in any other manner or under any other 
circumstances that the Department of State may determine, following 
consultation with the NMFS, does not pose a threat of the incidental 
taking of sea turtles. The Department of State shall publish any such 
determinations in the Federal Register and shall notify affected 
foreign governments and other interested parties directly.

B. Shrimp Exporter's/Importer's Declaration

    The requirement that all shipments of shrimp and products of shrimp 
imported into the United States must be accompanied by a declaration 
(DSP-121, revised) became effective as of May 1, 1996 and remains 
effective. The DSP-121 attests that the shrimp accompanying the 
declaration was harvested either under conditions that do not adversely 
affect sea turtles (as defined above) or in waters subject to the 
jurisdiction of a nation currently certified pursuant to Section 609. 
All declarations must be signed by the exporter. The declaration must 
accompany the shipment through all stages of the export process, 
including any transformation of the original product and any shipment 
through any intermediary nation. As before, the Department of State 
will make copies of the declaration readily available. Local 
reproduction of the declarations is fully acceptable.
    The requirement that a government official of the harvesting nation 
not currently certified pursuant to Section 609 must also sign the DSP-
121 asserting that the accompanying shrimp was harvested under 
conditions that do not adversely affect sea turtles species remains 
effective. In order to protect against fraud, the Department will 
continue to conduct periodic reviews of the systems that such foreign 
governments have put in place to verify the statements made on the DSP-
121 form.
    Date of Export. Import prohibitions shall not apply to shipments of 
shrimp and products of shrimp with a date of export falling at a time 
in which the harvesting nation is currently certified pursuant to 
Section 609.
    Country of Origin. For purposes of implementing Section 609, the 
country of origin shall be deemed to be the nation in whose waters the 
shrimp is harvested, whether or not the harvesting vessel is flying the 
flag of another nation.

C. Review of Information

    The government of any harvesting nation may request that the 
Department of State review any information regarding the particular 
shrimp fishing environment and conditions in that nation, or within a 
distinct geographic region of that nation, in making decisions pursuant 
to Section 609. Such information may be presented to demonstrate, inter 
alia:
    (1) That some portion of the shrimp intended to be exported from 
that nation to the United States is harvested under one of the 
conditions identified above as not adversely affecting species of sea 
turtles;
    (2) That the government of that nation has adopted a regulatory 
program governing the incidental taking of sea turtles in the course of 
commercial shrimp trawl fishing that is comparable to the U.S. program 
and, therefore, that the nation is eligible for certification under 
Section 609(b)(2)(A) and (B); or
    (3) That the fishing environment in that nation does not pose a 
threat of the incidental taking of sea turtles and, therefore, that the 
nation is eligible for certification under Section 609(b)(2)(C).
    Such information should be based on empirical data supported by 
objective scientific studies of sufficient duration and scope to 
provide the information necessary for a reliable determination. In 
addition, information submitted to support a request for any such 
determination should include available biological and commercial data 
that are relevant to determining whether or not the fishing environment 
of the harvesting nation is likely to pose a threat to sea turtles. 
Studies intended to show the rate of incidental taking of sea turtles 
in a given shrimp fishery should, at a minimum, contain data for an 
entire fishing season. Upon request, the United States will review and 
provide comments on a planned or existing study with respect to sample 
size, scientific methodology and other factors that affect whether such 
a study provides a sufficient basis for making a reliable 
determination.
    The Department will fully review and take into consideration all 
such information and, in consultation with the NMFS, respond in writing 
to the government of the harvesting nation within 120 days from the 
date on which the information is received.
    The Department, in consultation with the NMFS, will also take into 
consideration information on the same subjects that may be available 
from other sources, including but not limited to academic and 
scientific organizations, intergovernmental organizations and non-
governmental organizations with recognized expertise in the subject 
matter.

III. Guidelines for Making Certification Decisions

A. Certification Pursuant to Section 609(b)(2)(C)

    Section 609(b)(2)(C) authorizes the Department of State to certify 
a harvesting nation if the particular fishing environment of the 
harvesting nation does not pose a threat of incidental taking of sea 
turtles in the course of commercial shrimp trawl harvesting. 
Accordingly, the Department shall certify any harvesting nation meeting 
the following criteria without the need for action on the part of the 
government of the harvesting nation:
    a. Any harvesting nation without any of the relevant species of sea 
turtles occurring in waters subject to its jurisdiction;
    b. Any harvesting nation that harvests shrimp exclusively by means 
that do not pose a threat to sea turtles, e.g., any nation that 
harvests shrimp exclusively by artisanal means;
    c. Any nation whose commercial shrimp trawling operations take 
place exclusively in waters subject to its jurisdiction in which sea 
turtles do not occur.

B. Certification Pursuant to Section 609(b)(2) (A) and (B)

    Under Section 609(b)(2), the Department of State shall certify any 
other harvesting nation by May 1st of each year if "the government of 
[that] nation has provided documentary evidence of the adoption of a 
regulatory program governing the incidental taking of such sea turtles 
in the course of such harvesting that is comparable to that of the 
United States" and if "the average

[[Page 14484]]

rate of that incidental taking by vessels of the harvesting nation is 
comparable to the average rate of incidental taking of sea turtles by 
United States vessels in the course of such harvesting."
    a. Regulatory Program. The Department of State shall assess 
regulatory programs, as described in any documentary evidence provided 
by the governments of harvesting nations, for comparability with the 
U.S. program.
    Where standard otter trawl nets are used in shrimp fisheries in 
waters where sea turtles are present, sea turtles will inevitably be 
captured and drowned. The Department of State is presently aware of no 
measure or series of measures that can minimize the capture and 
drowning of sea turtles in such nets that is comparable in 
effectiveness to the required use of TEDs.
    1. If the government of the harvesting nation seeks certification 
on the basis of having adopted a TEDs program, certification shall be 
made if a program includes the following:
    (i) Required Use of TEDs--a requirement that all commercial shrimp 
trawl vessels operating in waters in which there is a likelihood of 
intercepting sea turtles use TEDs at all times. TEDs must be comparable 
in effectiveness to those used in the United States. Any exceptions to 
this requirement must be comparable to those of the U.S. program 
described above; and
    (ii) Enforcement--a credible enforcement effort that includes 
monitoring for compliance and appropriate sanctions.
    2. If the government of a harvesting nation demonstrates that it 
has implemented and is enforcing a comparably effective regulatory 
program to protect sea turtles in the course of shrimp trawl fishing 
without the use of TEDs, that nation will also be eligible for 
certification. As described above, such a demonstration would need to 
be based on empirical data supported by objective scientific studies of 
sufficient duration and scope to provide the information necessary for 
a reliable determination. In reviewing any such information, the 
Department of State will take fully into account any demonstrated 
differences between the shrimp fishing conditions in the United States 
and those in other nations, as well as information available from other 
sources.
    b. Incidental Take. Average incidental take rates will be deemed 
comparable if the harvesting nation requires the use of TEDs in a 
manner comparable to that of the U.S. program or, as described above, 
otherwise demonstrates that it has implemented a comparably effective 
program to protect sea turtles in the course of shrimp trawl fishing 
without the use of TEDs.
    c. Additional Considerations. 1. Form--A regulatory program may be 
in the form of regulations promulgated by the government of the 
harvesting nation and having the force of law. If the legal system and 
industry structure of the harvesting nation permit voluntary 
arrangements between government and the fishing industry, such an 
arrangement may be acceptable so long as there is a governmental 
mechanism to monitor compliance with the arrangement and to impose 
penalties for non-compliance, and reliable confirmation that the 
fishing industry is complying with the arrangement.
    2. Documentary Evidence--Documentary evidence may be in the form of 
copies of the relevant laws, regulations or decrees. If the regulatory 
program is in the form of a government-industry arrangement, then a 
copy of the arrangement is required. Harvesting nations are encouraged 
to provide, to the extent practicable, information relating to the 
extent of shrimp harvested by means of aquaculture.
    3. Additional Sea Turtle Protection Measures--The Department of 
State recognizes that sea turtles require protection throughout their 
life cycle, not only when they are threatened during the course of 
commercial shrimp trawl harvesting. In making certification 
determinations, the Department shall also take fully into account other 
measures the harvesting nation undertakes to protect sea turtles, 
including national programs to protect nesting beaches and other 
habitat, prohibitions on the directed take of sea turtles, national 
enforcement and compliance programs, and participation in any 
international agreement for the protection and conservation of sea 
turtles. In assessing any information provided by the governments of 
harvesting nations in this respect, the Department of State will rely 
on the technical expertise of NMFS and, where appropriate, the US Fish 
and Wildlife Service to evaluate threats to sea turtles and the 
effectiveness of sea turtle protection programs.
    4. Consultations--The Department of State will engage in ongoing 
consultations with the governments of harvesting nations. The 
Department recognizes that, as sea turtle protection programs develop, 
additional information will be gained about the interaction between sea 
turtle populations and shrimp fisheries.
    These Guidelines may be revised in the future to take into 
consideration that and other information, as well as to take into 
account changes in the U.S. program. These Guidelines may also be 
revised as a result of pending domestic litigation. In addition, the 
Department will continue to welcome public input on the best ways to 
implement both these Guidelines and Section 609 as a whole and may 
revise these guidelines in the future accordingly.

C. Timetable and Procedures for Certification Decisions

    Each year the Department will consider for certification: (a) Any 
nation that is currently certified, and (b) any other shrimp harvesting 
nation whose government requests such certification in a written 
communication to the Department of State through diplomatic channels 
prior to September 1 of the preceding year. Any such communication 
should include any information not previously provided that would 
support the request for certification, including the information 
specified above under Review of Information.
    Between September 1 and March 1, U.S. officials will seek to visit 
those nations requesting certifications pursuant to Section 
609(b)(2)(A) and (B). Each visit will conclude with a meeting between 
the U.S. officials and government officials of the harvesting nation to 
discuss the results of the visit and to review any identified 
deficiencies regarding the harvesting nation's program to protect sea 
turtles in the course of shrimp trawl fishing.
    By March 15, the Department of State will notify in writing through 
diplomatic channels the government of each nation that, on the basis of 
available information, including information gathered during such 
visits, does not appear to qualify for certification. Such notification 
will explain the reasons for this preliminary assessment, suggest steps 
that the government of the harvesting nation can take in order to 
receive a certification and invite the government of the harvesting 
nation to provide, by April 15, any further information. If the 
government of the harvesting nation so requests, the Department of 
State will schedule face-to-face meetings between relevant U.S. 
officials and officials of the harvesting nation to discuss the 
situation.
    Between March 15 and May 1, the Department of State will actively 
consider any additional information that the government of the 
harvesting nation believes should be considered by the Department in 
making its determination concerning certification.

[[Page 14485]]

    By May 1 of each year the Department of State will make formal 
decisions on certification. The governments of all nations that have 
requested certification will be notified in writing of the decision 
promptly through diplomatic channels. In the case of those nations for 
which certification is denied, such notification will again state the 
reasons for such denial and the steps necessary to receive a 
certification in the future.
    The government of any nation that is denied a certification by May 
1 may, at any time thereafter, request reconsideration of that 
decision. When the United States receives information from that 
government demonstrating that the circumstances that led to the denial 
of the certification have been corrected, U.S. officials will visit the 
exporting nation as early as a visit can be arranged. If the visit 
demonstrates that the circumstances that led to the denial of the 
certification have indeed been corrected, the United States will 
certify that nation immediately thereafter.

D. Special Timetable for 1999

    The United States and the four nations that brought the WTO 
complaint have agreed that the United States would implement the 
recommendations and rulings of the DSB within 13 months of the adoption 
of the WTO Appellate Body report by the DSB, i.e., by December 6, 1999.
    Accordingly, the Department of State hereby establishes the 
following timetable to apply in 1999 only:
    After the date of publication of the revised guidelines, the 
government of any harvesting nation that was denied certification by 
May 1, 1999, may request to be certified in accordance with these 
guidelines in a written communication to the Department of State 
through diplomatic channels prior to August 15, 1999.
    Not later than October 15, 1999, U.S. officials will seek to visit 
to those nations requesting such certifications. Each visit will 
conclude with a meeting between the U.S. officials and government 
officials of the harvesting nation to discuss the results of the visit 
and to review any identified deficiencies regarding the harvesting 
nation's program to protect sea turtles in the course of shrimp trawl 
fishing.
    By November 1, 1999, the Department of State will notify in writing 
through diplomatic channels the government of any nation that, on the 
basis of available information, including information gathered during 
such visits, does not appear to qualify for certification. Such 
notification will explain the reasons for this preliminary assessment, 
suggest steps that the government of the harvesting nation can take in 
order to receive a certification and invite the government of the 
harvesting nation to provide, by November 15, 1999, any further 
information.
    Between November 15 and December 6, 1999, the Department of State 
will actively consider any additional information that the government 
of the harvesting nation believes should be considered by the 
Department in making its determination concerning certification.
    By December 6, 1999, the Department of State will make formal 
decisions on certification. The governments of all nations that have 
requested certification under the special 1999 timetable will be 
notified in writing of the decision promptly through diplomatic 
channels. In the case of those nations for which certification is 
denied, such notification will again state the reasons for such denial 
and the steps necessary to receive a certification in the future.
    The government of any nation that is denied a certification by 
December 6, 1999, may, at any time thereafter, request reconsideration 
of that decision. When the United States receives information from that 
government demonstrating that the circumstances that led to the denial 
of the certification have been corrected, U.S. officials will visit the 
exporting nation as early as a visit can be arranged. If the visit 
demonstrates that the circumstances that led to the denial of the 
certification have indeed been corrected, the United States will 
certify that nation immediately thereafter.

E. Related Determinations

    As noted above, any harvesting nation that is not certified on May 
1 of any year may be certified prior to the following May 1 at such 
time as the harvesting nation meets the criteria necessary for 
certification. Conversely, any harvesting nation that is certified on 
May 1 of any year may have its certification revoked prior to the 
following May 1 at such time as the harvesting nation no longer meets 
those criteria.
* * * * *
    As a matter relating to the foreign affairs function, these 
guidelines are exempt from the notice, comment, and delayed 
effectiveness provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. This 
action is exempt from Executive Order 12866, and is not subject to the 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

    March 19, 1999.
R. Tucker Scully,
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Fisheries and Space.
[FR Doc. 99-7342 Filed 3-24-99; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4710-09-P

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