eNews Park Forest, April 30, 2013
Trade Sanctions Sought to Stop Mass Killing of Sea Turtles in Mexican Fisheries
WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--April 30 - U.S. conservation groups formally requested trade sanctions against Mexico today to stop the country’s massive loggerhead sea turtle bycatch. Each year Mexican fisheries off the southern Baja California peninsula kill more than 2,000 endangered loggerheads as they fish for halibut and sharks. Today’s petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network initiates a legal process that may ban some Mexican imports until Mexico reduces its sea turtle mortality.
“Loggerhead sea turtles are in danger of going extinct, but Mexico’s government is letting its fishermen entangle, hook and kill thousands of these amazing animals each year,” said Sarah Uhlemann, a senior attorney with the Center. “Mexico needs to use common-sense measures to prevent these thousands of unnecessary deaths. We need action on both sides of the border to avoid extinction.”
For nearly a decade, scientists have documented high levels of sea turtle entanglement and strandings on beaches in Baja California Sur. The area is considered a bycatch “hotspot,” as Mexican fisheries overlap with key sea turtle feeding grounds. Just last summer, sea turtle strandings reached a record high when 483 loggerhead sea turtles were found dead along a single, 25-mile stretch of coast — a 600 percent increase over already-alarming average rates. Scientists believe Baja California Sur has the highest concentration of sea turtle strandings anywhere in the world.
“The Pacific loggerheads are going extinct now, so we must end these sea turtle drownings now,” said Teri Shore, program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org). “Any delay in halting excess bycatch in Mexico's fisheries spells doom for these vulnerable and long-lived sea turtles.”
Loggerhead sea turtles in the North Pacific Ocean are listed as endangered under both U.S. and Mexican law, but bycatch continues to threaten their existence. Sea turtles often drown after becoming entangled in gillnet gear or getting hooked on longlines that target finfish and sharks. The United States has required its fishermen to adopt sea turtle bycatch prevention measures, including closing high-risk fishing areas. But Mexico has not taken similar action to curb its loggerhead bycatch.
Under an American law referred to as the “Pelly Amendment,” the conservation groups’ petition asks the United States to officially recognize or “certify” that Mexico’s sea turtle bycatch “diminishes the effectiveness” of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Under this treaty, Mexico, the United States and other nations have committed to reduce bycatch to “greatest extent practicable,” yet loggerhead bycatch remains substantially unregulated in Mexico. If the secretary of commerce agrees, President Obama may then ban Mexican imports until sea turtle bycatch is reduced.
In January, the United States “identified” Mexico for its unsustainable loggerhead bycatch under a separate U.S. law, the Protected Living Marine Resources statute, which requires nations to be formally identified, certified and sanctioned for failing to adopt bycatch measures comparable to U.S. protections.
This article originally appeared here.
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