Nicholas Throckmorton, 202/208-5636
SERVICE PROPOSES TO ALLOW IMPORTATION OF ICELANDIC EIDER DOWN
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed a regulation to allow the importation into the United States of Icelandic eiderdown from wild nesting common eiders under limited and very specific conditions.
"Icelanders have demonstrated that the sustainable harvest of eider down from wild common eider populations continues to boost their efforts to protect this migratory bird and its habitat," said Service Director Steve Williams. "The Service hopes that allowing the importation of eiderdown into the United States will further encourage private landowners in Iceland to conserve the common eider."
Icelanders have used eiderdown for more 11 centuries and have exported it since the 14th century. From May to July, private landowners in Iceland collect down generally twice each season, taking great care to avoid disturbing brooding hens, replacing down removed from the nest with dry grass or hay. Recent studies conducted by the Icelandic Museum of Natural History show no evidence that down collection from wild populations has had any negative impact on the birds, including their ability to reproduce successfully.
Iceland has, since 1847, prohibited eider hunting. This ban, along with predator control and habitat management programs, has resulted in an increase of wild common eider populations. Populations of common eiders found elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere appear to be declining. Of the three other Northern Hemisphere eider species, the status of the king eider is essentially unknown, while spectacled and Stellerís eiders are both listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. All eider species are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Circumpolar Eider Conservation Strategy and Action Plan adopted in 1997 by the member nations of the Arctic Council, an advisory group to which the United States belongs, advocates an international approach to manage all eiders in the Northern Hemisphere. The Plan also notes that the Icelandic population of common eiders has shown a long-term increase, and it endorses the development of down harvesting as a sustainable use of eiders.
"Our proposal to open the American marketplace to eiderdown is consistent with the recommendation of the Arctic Council," said Williams. "Icelanders would use some of the profits garnered from commercial trade with the United States, if allowed, to support their ongoing habitat conservation efforts for wild common eiders and other migratory birds."
True eiderdown from the common eider is a scarce luxury item, with annual worldwide production averaging less than 3 metric tons, at a total annual average price of less than $2.2 million (U.S.). Iceland currently exports eiderdown primarily to Denmark, Germany, and Japan where it may be re-exported elsewhere.
Iceland must verify annually that they will not kill or injure MBTA-protected birds within and around the common eider breeding colonies in Iceland in order to remove other birds that may prey on or compete with the common eider.
The Service is seeking public comment on this proposed regulation, particularly the following issues: appropriate down collection procedures, verification standards, and enforcement procedures; measures to ensure that exportation of down from Iceland does not encourage illegal importation of any other waterfowl species into the United States; record-keeping and annual reporting requirements; avian control of MBTA-protected species; and reasonableness of the permit conditions.
Common eiders are a large diving duck characterized by a feathered bill and a long sloping forehead. The males have a black crown, a hind neck which is green, and a dark or yellow bill. To withstand the cold of their north circumpolar habitat, their down is exceptionally warm.
Please send comments on the proposed rule to RIN 1018-AI64, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS MBSP 4107, Arlington, Virginia 22203-1610; or to <firstname.lastname@example.org> by December 2, 2003.
The Office of Management and Budges will concurrently be seeking comment on information collection. Please send comments on the information collection requirement of this proposed rule by October 3, 2003, to Desk Officer for the Department of Interior at the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs by fax at 202/395-6566 or by e-mail at OIRA_DOCKET@omb.eop.gov> . Please provide a copy of these comments to the Fish and Wildlife Serviceís Information Collection Clearance Officer, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, MS 222 ARLSQ, Arlington, Virginia 22203; or by fax at 703/358-2269; or by e-mail to <Anissa_Craghead@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 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources 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 Aid program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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