MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 731084 jd

Mr. Steven Newman
Newman, Wilson & Co., Inc.
421 S.W. Sixth Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204

RE: Country of origin marking requirements for imported fishing flies

Dear Mr. Newman:

This is in reply to your submission of February 16, 1988, requesting a ruling on the country of origin marking requirements applicable to imported fishing flies. You are aware of prior Customs rulings requiring individual marking of fishing flies, but you have presented evidence which you believe warrants our departure from that position.


The product

Fish flies are fish hooks of various sizes, either barbed or nonbarbed, to which are hand-tied various combinations of furs, feathers, tinsel, thread, and sometimes imitation insect body parts such as eyes. Flies come in thousands of patterns and approximately 1000 of these patterns are imported into the U.S. Each pattern is available in two to eight different sizes, duplicating as nearly as possible the size and configuration of various insects at different stages of their life cycles.

Among the countries currently exporting flies to the U.S. are Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mauritius, Columbia, China, Singapore, Kenya, Hong Kong, Guatemala, Malaysia, Portugal, and England.

Flies are usually imported in boxes of one dozen or five dozen. The boxes are marked to indicate pattern, size, quantity, and country of origin. However, the ultimate purchaser would rarely, if ever, receive flies in these boxes. Boxes of one dozen typically go to retailers or catalogers for resale to individuals. Boxes of five dozen are repackaged by general retailers in small blister packs for sale to individuals.


Methods of sale

Fish flies are retailed by three methods- general retailers, catalog sales, and specialty shops.

General retailers are usually large stores that have a sporting goods department offering fishing equipment. Their sales are primarily of flies packaged in small blister packs.

Catalogs are published by fishing equipment specialists, as well as firms offering a variety of merchandise. Depending on the catalogers emphasis on fishing equipment, the catalog can offer from as little as a few dozen flies to several hundred. Catalog sales are completed by mailing flies to purchasers loose in plastic boxes or in boxes where the hook has been placed through a strip of foam glued to the bottom of the box.

Specialty shops, which account for the largest share of the fly market, display flies in cabinets divided into small bins between two to four inches square. Bins are labeled as to pattern and size. Some shops may display as many as 500 patterns at an average of four sizes per pattern resulting in 2000 separate bins. Purchasers hand pick from the bins after examining the flies for quality.


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), requires that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article will permit in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser the English name of the country of origin of the article. Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), sets forth regulations implementing the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Both the law and regulations provide that whenever an article is excepted from the marking requirements, the immediate container of the article shall be marked to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article.

Strict compliance with the marking statute would require that each individual fish fly be marked to indicate its country of origin. Customs has adopted this approach in the past and suggested that flies be marked with adhesive labels, string tags, or be packaged in individual plastic bags (See ruling 730869 km, dated December 16, 1987).


Customs has now been presented with evidence establishing that those marking methods are impractical. Adhesive labels damage a fly by leaving residue on the feathers. String tags become hopelessly tangled while flies are grouped in retail bins awaiting purchase. Placing flies in plastic bags is unacceptable since the tendency of the bag to return to its flat condition crushes the barbules of the feathers used on many patterns of flies.

Some importers have complied with Customs position of requiring individual marking of flies by piercing a mylar tag imprinted with country of origin information through the hook of the fly. However, we have been advised that this has proven unacceptable because removal of the tag before use necessitates grasping the body of the fly in such a way as to injure the feathers. Also, as more fly manufacturers change over to barbless hooks, the tags fall off in transit. One fly manufacturer's insurance company has expressed concern over the liability implications of selling flies in a condition where the hook must be handled to remove a tag before use. Finally, if the tags are removed while outdoors, they could contribute to the litter problem.

According to one fly manufacturer, dealers and consumers are unwilling to accept tagged flies. This manufacturer attributes the reduction from 2088 sales outlets to less than 600 sales outlets during one selling season to the public's unwillingness to purchase tagged flies.

In addition to the difficulties caused by the various marking methods of labels, tags, and bagging outlined above, any of those methods interfere with two common tests performed by knowledgeable fly fisherman selecting flies from retail bins. First, the hackles or barbules are tested for desired firmness by gently stroking the fly with a fingertip or brushing the fly gently against the lips. Secondly, a properly tied and balanced fly should land upright when dropped onto a flat surface. Neither of these tests can be properly performed if flies are encumbered by labels or tags, or enclosed in plastic bags.


Customs is now convinced that requiring individual marking of fishing flies is impractical. Therefore, pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1304(b) and { 134.22, Customs Regulations, the outermost container or holder in which the flies reach the ultimate purchaser shall be marked to indicate the country of origin of the flies. Customs reaches this decision only after being presented with evidence of the fish fly industry's good faith compliance with individual marking and the undesired side effects such compliance produced. We are of the opinion they have


demonstrated the extraordinary circumstances which must be present in order to permit an exception to the rule of individual marking.

The three types of retailers will be considered in compliance with the marking law if they adhere to the following guidelines.

General retailers

Blister packs must be conspicuously marked on the front panel with country of origin information. The words, "Made in", "Product of", or "Hand tied in" will be acceptable.

Catalog sales

Inasmuch as reading the advertisement printed in a catalog is the equivalent of reading the country of origin marking on an article or a retail holder or container, there shall appear in close proximity to the advertisements for flies in a catalog a notice stating the English name of the country of origin of each fly offered for sale.

The immediate container in which the flies will reach the ultimate purchaser must be marked by means of an adhesive label securely attached to a conspicuous portion of the container. If the flies are contained in a box intended for reuse, such as the sample aluminum box with individual compartments, { 134.23, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.23), requires that the container be separately marked to indicate country of origin. A label imprinted with country of origin information may be placed inside the container as an alternative to use of adhesive stickers.

Specialty shops

Due to the large number of bins displayed in some specialty shops, Customs will not require separate country of origin marking on each bin. However, a sign must be posted in a conspicuous location near the bins indicating the origin of the flies contained in the bins. Every display area must contain at least one such sign and large areas must post additional signs every 10 feet along the display area.

Multiple sources of similar flies

Customs is aware that often a retailer will receive similar flies from distinct sources and that the flies are commingled awaiting packaging and sale. Once commingled, the flies cannot be separated on the basis of country of origin. It would be unreasonable to require the flies be kept segregated during storage. The proliferation of patterns and sizes from different sources would result in an unmanageable number of storage


containers. During a meeting with Customs officials on February 22, 1988, you stated that a retailer would usually have flies in inventory at any one time that came from no more than four or five sources.

In consideration of the multiple country sourcing practices prevalent in the fish fly industry, Customs will permit marking that identifies the possible sources, limited to five countries, from which the flies in a container or holder may have originated. Multiple source marking is available for blister packs, the copy printed in catalogs, the immediate containers in which flies are shipped to catalog customers, and for the bins maintained in specialty shops.

This ruling modifies ruling 730869 km, December 16, 1987, and all previous rulings on the marking of fish flies.


Harvey B. Fox
Director, Office of
Regulations and Rulings