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Turtle protection gets failing grade by U.S.

Trade embargos could follow U.S. ruling on Mexico's efforts to protect loggerheads

Measures announced by the Mexican government in April to protect the endangered loggerhead sea turtle aren’t sufficient, according to U.S. fisheries officials, who have issued a ruling that could bring trade embargos.

A “negative certification” was issued Friday after it was determined that Mexico’s measures to reduce the bycatch of the turtles by commercial fishing in the Gulf of Ulloa, Baja California, are not comparable to those of the U.S.

It was the first time the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has used the certification process, which allows the U.S. government to impose sanctions against countries it views as not providing sufficient protection to turtles and other wildlife.

It allows the American president to impose embargos on imports, based on recommendations by the U.S. commerce secretary. U.S. ports could also be closed to Mexican fishing vessels.

As many as 2,000 loggerhead turtles are believed to die every year after being caught by commercial gillnetters and longliners fishing for halibut.

Mexico’s new rules call for a mortality limit of 90 turtles. If it should be met, gillnet and longline fishing would be closed from May through August of the same year. But that limit wasn’t enough for the fisheries service, nor were some of the other measures.

Although it said Mexico’s new regulations represent “significant progress,” a new reserve area in which the rules apply is limited in size and new gear restrictions are limited by the period in which they apply. How the mortality cap would be implemented was also a concern because bycatch reporting would not be made in real time.

If the cap were exceeded, it is unclear how the fishery could be closed in a timely manner to ensure there is no further mortality, said the NMFS.

Mexico News Daily

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