2020 Shrimp season begins amidst turmoil

Across Mexico, mid to late September traditionally marks the launch of shrimp season.  Lifting of the annual ban on shrimp takes place over a series of weeks, with the first reopening this year on September 14th for estuaries, marshes, and bays in Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima.

Puerto Peñasco’s deep sea shrimp fleet will be able to set out in search of “pink gold” as of 6 a.m. on September 29th, once additional restrictions are lifted for waters under federal jurisdiction.

The National Commission on Aquaculture and Fishing (CONAPESCA) establishes dates for lifting the temporary shrimp ban based on technical reports of the National Fishing and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA). Due to the coronavirus health emergency, INAPESCA emphasized technical support helped determine capture periods as they were unable to take countrywide samples.

Traditionally, Mexico’s shrimp season lasts from mid / late-September through mid-March. The off-season is one of the principal management steps to protect reproductive periods while seeking to obtain larger sizes of shrimp with greater commercial value.

Fishermen face challenges of embargo and lack of subsidies

In addition to a U.S. fishing embargo in the Gulf of Mexico in place since August 2018, as a measure to stress conservation efforts to save the endangered vaquita marina in the Sea of Cortez, fishermen confront the challenge of navigating through Covid-19 at a time when the Mexican president has stated there will be no subsidies for marine diesel or gasoline for fishing.

At the end of August, Mexico president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) declared diesel and gasoline subsidies for the fishing industry would not occur for the 2020-21 season. The president argued the significant stimulus had been taken advantage of by large companies and business leaders who benefited economically, though pointed to corruption.  The president indicated the support would be delivered directly to fishermen, though this has not been clearly defined.

In response, fishermen across the country have led a series of protests, including in Puerto Peñasco, while local mayor Ernesto “Kiko” Munro stated it appears the president wants to extinguish fishing.  Munro noted in Puerto Peñasco alone this would impact over 2000 families directly who depend on the fishing industry, and another 1500 families indirectly.

The Puerto Peñasco mayor explained he fully agrees with direct support for fishermen, particularly as they do not benefit from Social Security, though argued the Federal Government must have a comprehensive strategy in place. He believes eliminating fuel subsidies deprives fishermen the opportunity of generating more income, also noting failure to grant the diesel subsidies would eliminate 4500 jobs while also impacting the entire production chain.

“It is a very delicate issue,” stated mayor Munro, “Once shrimp fishing becomes unaffordable due to cancellation of subsidies, the entire economic production chain comes to a halt, including processors, freezer companies, diesel consumption itself, etc.  All of these elements must be taken into account when decisions are made.”

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