U.S. ban on wild Mexican shrimp only temporary

Published on
March 29, 2010

The United States’ temporary import ban on wild shrimp from Mexico should have little impact on the U.S. shrimp supply, according to a major supplier.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced that it’s prohibiting Mexico from exporting wild shrimp to the United States, effective 20 April, because a limited number of Mexican trawlers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and Sea of Cortez are not using turtle excluder devices (TEDs) properly and are inadvertently trapping sea turtles. TEDs are designed to reduce sea turtle mortality. The ban does not include farmed shrimp.

However, Mexico’s wild shrimp season ended in March, and the certification allowing Mexico to export wild shrimp to the United States may be re-instated by this fall.

“If the certification became re-instated in October, like the Mexican government and vessel owners expect, the volume exported to the United States will not be affected,” Rodrigo de la Serna, procurement manager for Ocean Garden Products, told SeafoodSource. The San Diego-based company is one of the country’s largest importers of wild Mexican shrimp.

The Gulf of Mexico shrimp season typically begins in July, and the Sea of Cortez shrimp fishery starts in August or September.

“Hopefully, the volume will not be affected if we have a quick response and if the results of [State Department] inspections are acceptable,” said de la Serna.

The U.S. government is working with the Mexican government to improve Mexico’s shrimp-trawl program and seek re-instatement of the certification.

“The State Department can make certification decisions at any time of the year,” said State Department spokesperson Noel Clay. “The annual certification called for in Section 609 is due to the Congress by 1 May of each year, but decisions to certify or to withdraw certification are often made at other times, based on evidence of country-wide compliance or non-compliance. We’re working with the government of Mexico to minimize the decertification period and to renew Mexican shrimp export certification as quickly as possible pursuant to the mandate of U.S. law.”

To that end, the Mexican government, with support from the United States, is implementing a 2010-2012 TED Usage Program, said De La Serna. The program will re-train fishermen about the “importance of the right use of TEDs,” explained de la Serna. “Then, we expect the Mexican fisheries will perform without endangering the marine turtles.”

Mexico exported more than 90 million pounds of shrimp — wild and farmed — to the United States last year, making the country the United States’ No. 6 shrimp supplier, behind Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam and China.

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