India pushing reforms to address US concerns over turtle bycatch

Published on
November 30, 2020

India’s Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) is coordinating the country's regional administrators on reforms to the country's Marine Fishing Act, with the goal of addressing issues raised by the United States that led it to impose a ban on importing wild shrimp from the South Asian nation.

The U.S., the top of buyer of Indian shrimp, has banned imports of wild-caught shrimp from India in because they are caught without the use of turtle excluder devices, even though endangered turtles are typically not found in the areas where shrimp is caught, along India’s west coast. 

The U.S. is demanding that a law be placed on the books that turtle excluder devices must be used, a senior MPEDA official told The Indian Express.

“We are progressing well in dialogue to get the ban lifted. Now state governments will have to show their eagerness in strengthening laws against offenders of turtle regulations. In the last two years, a lot of progress had been achieved in implementing fitting turtle excluder devices and almost all trawlers are fitted with such devices. But the U.S.A. wants India to strengthen the act,” the official said.

Laws and regulations in the fisheries sector in India are promulgated and managed at the state level. The official said that MPEDA has told state governments to carry out necessary modifications of their fishing regulations with the aim of having the U.S. ban reversed.

The U.S. ban has affected about 15 percent of India’s total shrimp exports, with some of the country's southern states and West Bengal being hit hardest. West Bengal's losses were estimated at between INR 15 billion and INR 20 billion (USD 203 million and USD 270 million, EUR 169 million and EUR 226 million) per year in export value, as all of the state's exports of sea shrimp have ceased, according to the Press Trust of India.

MPEDA will also fund a research initiative with the aim of clearing other hurdles preventing Indian seafood from being exported, particularly in the U.S. market. In August, India’s Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) said it had initiated a research project on marine mammals and sea turtles funded with a grant of INR 56.6 million (USD 758,330, EUR 636,435) from MPEDA. The project will take three years to complete.

Photo courtesy of Funtay/Shutterstock

Reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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