Mexican diplomats petition US to end shrimp embargo

Published on
August 17, 2021
Mexican officials are pushing for an end to a U.S. embargo on Mexican wild-caught shrimp.

Mexican officials recently met with their U.S. counterparts in Washington D.C. to formally request a lifting of the U.S. embargo on Mexican wild-caught shrimp.

In April 2021, the U.S. State Department withdrew Mexico’s certification under Section 609 of Public Law 101-162, barring Mexico from exporting any of its wild-caught shrimp to the United States. In a statement at the time, the State Department said Mexico’s efforts to protect sea turtles were “no longer comparable to that of the United States.”

The United States subsequently agreed to consider allowing Mexican shrimp imports from the coastal and artisinal fleets, with the exception of large industrial trawlers, but Mexico must first conduct new verification visits before issuing certificates of origin for its coastal shrimp exports, according to a statement from Almada issued by Mexico's government on 6 August. Almada said catch data shows zero turtle mortalities caused by the coastal and artisinal sectors, and that he expected the U.S. to recertify Mexico's entire fleet once inspections were conducted to verify the country's large shrimp vessels had implemented the correct use of turtle excluding devices.

At the 12 August meeting, the Mexican delegation – which included Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Esteban Moctezuma, Mexican Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) Víctor Villalobos, Mexican National Commission of Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA) Head Octavio Almada, and Mexican National Fisheries Institute (INAPESCA) General Director Pablo Arenas –“reaffirmed their commitment to promote sustainable fishing to reactivate both economies, while preserving the environment and biodiversity,” according to a press release from Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations.

The Mexican officials presented its official plan of action for the conservation of sea turtles to the U.S. government in the hope of creating a pathway toward regaining the country’s Section 609 certification.

“The Mexican delegation emphasized the importance to establish a dialogue to strengthen collaboration in order to achieve the protection of marine wildlife, as well as responsible fishing. They also highlighted this commitment through permanent working groups or any other mechanism deemed pertinent,” it said. “Both delegations developed a route to certify again all Mexican shrimp production by working immediately to prepare the U.S. authorities visit to Mexico and supervise the commercial vessels situation. Both parties pledged to maintain fluid and permanent communication, as well as a coordinated dynamic to jointly define a scheme in the medium and long term that addresses not only the conservation of the sea turtle, but also national sustainable fishing.”

The participation of senior Mexican officials in the meeting “reflects the importance of this issue for the president of Mexico,” according to the press release.

According to Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, U.S. officials attending the meeting included U.S. State Department Acting Director of the Office of Marine Conservation David F. Hogan; U.S. State Department Section 609 Manager Office of Marine Conservation Joseph Fette; U.S. State Department Mexican Desk Senior Economic and Energy Officer Lori Michaelson; U.S. Trade Representative Office Deputy Business Representative for Environment and Natural Resources Amanda Mayhew; U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration International Sea Turtle Recovery and Conservation Specialist Ann Marie Lauritsen; NOAA Southeastern Fisheries Center Capture and Engineering Section Acting  Head Jeff Gearhart; and NOAA Fisheries Research Biologist and Commercial Gear Development Specialist Blake Price.

In response to a SeafoodSource inquiry, a U.S. State Department spokesperson declined to outline the details of the discussion or confirm the meeting’s attendees.

We do not comment on the details of diplomatic discussion; However, for any country where certification under Section 609 is withdrawn, we stand ready to consult with and provide guidance to any governments on how certification can be reinstated, and to work cooperatively to review progress toward meeting the standard in Section 609 as soon as the partner government indicates they are ready for that engagement,” the spokesperson said.

Mexico's shrimp fishery, with exports estimated at around USD 300 million (EUR 256.1 million), supports an estimated 63,000 fishermen and more than 250,000 additional people who are economically dependent on the industry, according to the Mexican government.

Photo courtesy of oksana.perkins/Shutterstock

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