The U.S. State Department, via Federal Registry Public Notice No. 11419, confirmed an embargo on the export of commercial shrimp from Mexico went into effect on April 30th. The embargo stems from over two years of site visits across Mexico regarding the inadequate use of Sea Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) by the country’s deep sea fleets.
Though expected, and despite the shrimp embargo now officially in effect, Puerto Peñasco shrimp producers indicate they will continue to work on reversing this extreme measure prior to the upcoming shrimp season in September.
The Public Notice from the U.S. State Department indicates, “The Department suspends Mexico’s certification as their program to protect sea turtles is no longer comparable to that of the U.S.”
Under the embargo, Mexico is blocked from exporting wild shrimp to the U.S., which usually generates 257 million dollars in revenue.
Withdrawal of Mexico’s certification for shrimp export to the U.S. comes following four inspection visits over the past two years by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to sites including Campeche, Mazatlan, Puerto Chiapas, Puerto Juarez, Puerto Peñasco, Salina Cruz, San Blas, and Tampico. These visits uncovered series irregularities regarding the use of DETs.
Embargo adds to other Restrictions in Upper Gulf
The official embargo on commercial shrimp export to the U.S. comes on top of restrictions to the sale of seafood products extracted from the Upper Gulf of California, in effect for smaller vessels since August 2018. Given the lack of concrete action to save the vaquita marina from extinction in the Upper Gulf, these restrictions were subsequently extended to include Puerto Peñasco’s shrimp fleet.
Mateo López León, Chair of the Upper Gulf of California Federation of Shipowners, indicated, sadly, the U.S. embargo on Mexican shrimp is something they had seen coming given unfavorable results on inspections of the shrimp boats.
Though this is awful news, López León believed there still to be time to rectify things as to the manufacture and correct use of devices that exclude sea turtles and other fish.
He noted, just as in previous seasons, they will be working intensely to get the shrimp boats recertified by September in order to reverse the embargo, adding there is sufficient time to do so.
Turtle Excluder Devices
It’s worth noting, since 2018, Mexico’s National Commission on Aquaculture and Fishing (CONAPESCA) did away with a special group of federal officials whose purpose was to train boat crews on the correct use of TEDs.
This initiative was reinstated at the beginning of April 2021, though the embargo was already on its way. The goal now is for Mexico to bring up its standards in the use of TEDs, comparable to the U.S., by the September launch of the shrimp season.
Countries presently authorized to export shrimp to the U.S., based on their sea turtle protection programs, include: Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gabón, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, and Suriname.