India launches research project to address seafood export challenges
India’s Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has initiated a research project on marine mammals and sea turtles with the aim of clearing hurdles for the country’s seafood exports, particularly in the U.S. market.
The researchers will evaluate the status of 27 species of marine mammals and five species of sea turtles in Indian waters, gathering information on the status of their stocks and bycatch rates. Such data is not currently available in India, according to a statement from CMFRI.
The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) will provide funding of INR 56.6 million (USD 758,330, EUR 636,435) for CMFRI to implement the project, which will take three years to complete.
CMFRI said the project is important “in the context of emerging seafood trade related challenges faced by the country.”
The United States, the top of buyer of Indian shrimp, banned exports of wild-caught shrimp from India because they are caught without the use of turtle excluder devices, even though endangered turtles are typically not found in areas where shrimp is caught, along India’s west coast.
CMFRI noted that under the U.S. import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, issued by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), exporting countries are not allowed to let intentional killing of marine mammals in commercial fisheries occur. In January 2017, the U.S. granted a five-year exemption period for relevant countries to develop regulatory schemes by gauging marine mammal stocks, bycatch, bycatch limits, and lowering total bycatch.
The U.S. law has also required authorities to certify that the harvesting of shrimp in exporting countries does no harm to sea turtles before the products are permitted to export to the U.S.
“Following this, the U.S. has banned import of wild-caught shrimp from India from May 2018,” CMFRI.
According to MPEDA’s chairman K.S. Srinivas, the research project will receive technical assistance from NOAA experts, who have shared their experiences in conducting similar assessment in U.S. waters.
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