United States bans shrimp from Costa Rica to protect sea turtles
(May 6, 2009 – San José, Costa Rica)
The US Department of State`s Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science imposed a trade embargo on all Costa Rican shrimp exports to the US, effective as of May 1. The embargo is due to Costa Rica’s failure to enforce its laws that require commercial shrimp fishers to protect sea turtles from capture and death in trawl nets by using Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs).
According to a report issued by the State Department, the decision to embargo Costa Rica was the result of a multi-year investigation that involved certification visits and data compiled from credible third-party sources. The evidence points out how Costa Rica’s Fishery Institute (Incopesca), didn’t “provide sanctions for TED violations that served as an effective deterrent against the failure to use TEDs”.
“Incopesca has been extremely negligent”, denounced Andy Bystrom of Pretoma, a Costa Rican NGO that has worked on TED issues since 1997. “In meetings with the State Department in December 2008, Incopesca was warned that Costa Rica`s shrimp could be embargoed, to which the officers responded that they would resolve the problem in early 2009, but they haven’t done a thing”.
Costa Rica was the only country whose shrimp was embargoed by the US. The 15 nations that retain their hold on the US shrimp market are: Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Suriname, and Venezuela.
“This is Costa Rica`s 4th shrimp embargo since 1999, which comes to prove that a long term official policy has been to ignore domestic TED regulations and allow the needles massacre of thousands of sea turtles, drowned by industrial shrimp trawlers”, said Randall Arauz, President of Pretoma. “Our concern now is the rest of the Central American countries where shrimp trawling occurs, as TED regulations are not strictly enforced anywhere in the region”.
“Shrimp fishers non-compliance with TED laws is a chronic problem occurring throughout the world”, said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, in Forest Knolls, CA (www.seaturtles.org).
TIRN is also in negotiations with the U. S. government after submitting a 60-day notice of intent to sue the US Department of State for its failure to create a meaningful and transparent process of evaluating nations to ensure proper protection of sea turtles in shrimp fishing under Public Law 101-162 section 609 of the U. S. Endangered Species Act. This provision requires nations exporting shrimp to the US to use comparable technology to ensure sea turtles do not drown in shrimp nets.