U.S. lifts ban on wild Mexican shrimp

The U.S. Department of State on Friday allowed Mexico to resume exporting wild shrimp to the U.S. market, six months after the import ban went into effect.

In mid-April, a limited number of Mexican trawlers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and Sea of Cortez were cited for improper use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) because they were inadvertently catching sea turtles. TEDs are designed to reduce sea turtle mortality.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Mexico’s government has implemented a plan to strengthen sea turtle conservation in its shrimp trawl fisheries, including “significant” improvements in the use of TEDs. “Mexico’s TEDs program is comparable in effectiveness to the U.S. program,” said the agency.

The import ban did not include farmed shrimp. Still, Mexico’s shrimp exports to the U.S. market have taken a big hit since the ban went into effect on 20 April.

In the first eight months of 2010, U.S. imports of Mexican shrimp are down 33.3 percent, to 23.6 million pounds, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. In August alone, they were down 97 percent, to just 146,000 pounds. At 91.7 million pounds, Mexico was the sixth largest supplier of shrimp to the U.S. market last year, behind Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam and China.

The Gulf of Mexico shrimp season began in July, and the Sea of Cortez season started in August.

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