The United States this week announced its intention to prohibit—effective April 20—the import of wild shrimp from Mexico after determining that the country has failed to adequately protect sea turtles. U.S. law (Section 609 of Public Law 101-162) prohibits imports of shrimp unless the harvesting nation has sea turtle protection programs comparable to those in effect in the United States. If the U.S. ban is upheld, it will jeopardize nearly 60,000 tons of Mexican shrimp exported annually. These exports are valued at more than $350 million, representing 42 percent of Mexico’s total seafood exports.
Manuel Montes Díaz, president of Mexico’s National Council for the Promotion of Commercial Fish and Aquaculture Products, came out strongly against the U.S. decision saying, “Mexico has a responsible and sustainable fishing industry” with the means to protect turtles.
Although the move has provoked a vocal Mexican response, the announcement appears to have been timed to coincide with the end of this year’s shrimping season and thus may not actually affect trade. Observers note Mexico will have ample time to improve its sea turtle-protection measures to comply with international standards; the U.S. would then likely drop its opposition to Mexican shrimp.