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US bans shrimp from Mexico until sea turtles are protected

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Mexico will try to restore its shrimp exports after apparently inadequate protections for sea turtles halted trade.

Mexico’s agriculture department vowed to ensure Mexican trawl-net shrimp boats don’t sweep up sea turtles as by-catch. The agency said the U.S. ban coincides with the closure of Mexico’s shrimp fishing season.

Mexico had required fishermen to install sea-turtle-exclusion devices on shrimp nets. But the U.S. State Department said Friday that Mexico no longer met U.S. standards on the issue.

It was not clear whether that was because Mexico hadn’t been enforcing the protections, or because U.S. procedures became more stringent. However, Mexico acknowledged it will institute a “more aggressive program of inspection and oversight.”

The State Department said it “suspended the certification of Mexico because its sea turtle protection program is no longer comparable to that of the United States.”

Most of Mexico’s wild shrimp catch is exported to the United States.

“Through years of experience, the U.S. shrimp industry has developed commercial fishing methods that have been proven to dramatically reduce any impact on sea turtles,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “As populations of Kemp’s ridley, green, and loggerhead turtles rebound, the Section 609 program has become even more important for international conservation efforts. The Mexican industry’s response to the State Department’s announcement proves that access to the United States market provides vital leverage to improve the environmental practices of foreign commercial fishing industries.”  

With information from The Associated Press

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