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The vaquita porpoise: on the verge of extinction. The vaquita porpoise: on the verge of extinction. Thomas A. Jefferson/VIVA Vaquita

Conservation groups call for shrimp boycott

Consumers urged to boycott Mexican shrimp in measure to save vaquita porpoise

Conservation organizations in the United States today announced a boycott of Mexican shrimp in order to pressure the Mexican government to take action to save the vaquita porpoise.

“Mexican fisheries agencies have known how to save the vaquita for years, but they’ve failed to take the necessary actions, protecting industry profits rather than this critically endangered species,” said Kate O’Connell, marine wildlife consultant at the Animal Welfare Institute.

The “Boycott Mexican Shrimp” campaign is supported by some 50 U.S. and international organizations, a press conference was told this morning, including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The boycott announcement comes three days before the opening in Boston of Seafood Expo North America, one of the world’s biggest seafood industry trade shows. The call for a boycott will be promoted with a mobile billboard outside the show and at the local headquarters of Trader Joe’s, described as one of the biggest retailers of Mexican shrimp.

The campaign’s website offers tools to help consumers identify Mexican shrimp products and participate in the boycott efforts.

An estimated 30 vaquitas are all that remain of the small porpoise, found only in the waters of the upper Sea of Cortéz. Its numbers have been decimated over many years by shrimp gillnets in which they become entangled, and more recently by gillnets used illegally to catch the totoaba, whose swim bladder is a delicacy in Asia.

Conservation groups believe the vaquita will become extinct within two years and that a permanent gillnet ban is needed to save the porpoise, along with enforcement.

A two-year ban on gillnet fishing in the area inhabited by the vaquita was implemented in 2015 but a statement released today by conservation groups describes enforcement efforts as “dismal.”

“Illegal fishing is widespread throughout vaquita habitat, including by shrimp vessels that continue to ply the waters of the Vaquita Refuge — a no fishing zone.”

The gillnet ban, part of a billion-peso program that paid fishermen not to fish, ends next month and the government has not indicated if it will be extended.

A new strategy announced earlier this year by the federal government and the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita is to capture the remaining animals and provide them with a safe environment in which they can breed.

But the shrimp boycott supporters feel that the gillnet ban is the vaquita’s last hope.

“This is the vaquita’s very last chance,” said Sarah Uhlemann, international program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “For decades, Mexican officials have failed the vaquita, and now only the strongest of actions will get their attention. To save these wonderful little porpoises, we have to boycott Mexican shrimp.”

U.S. shrimp imports from Mexico totaled 25,327 tonnes last year.

Sinaloa is the source of 70% of Mexico’s wild shrimp production at more than 48,000 tonnes. It has the largest shrimp-fishing fleet in the Pacific Ocean, with more than 638 deep-sea vessels, according to ProMéxico, the federal agency that promotes trade and investment.

Mexico News Daily

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