The Department of State on May 1 certified 39 nations and one economy to import shrimp into the United States under Section 609 of Public Law 101-162. Section 609 bars the import of shrimp and shrimp products harvested in ways that may adversely affect some sea turtle species. This ban does not apply when the Department of State certifies to Congress that the government of the harvesting nation has taken measures to reduce the incidental taking of sea turtles in its shrimp trawl fisheries, such as through the use of Turtle Excluder Devices, or that the fishing environment of the harvesting nation does not threaten sea turtles. The Department makes certifications annually on May 1 and bases them in part on the results of verification visits State Department and National Marine Fisheries Service teams make to exporting countries.
Fifteen nations use Turtle Excluder Devices to prevent the accidental drowning of sea turtles in shrimp trawls. They are Belize, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Suriname and Venezuela. Twenty-four nations and one economy have shrimp fishing environments that do not pose a danger to sea turtles. Of these, eight nations and one economy harvest shrimp using manual rather than mechanical means, or use other shrimp fishing methods not harmful to sea turtles. They are the Bahamas, China, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Oman, Peru and Sri Lanka. The sixteen other nations have shrimp fisheries in cold waters, where the risk of taking sea turtles is negligible. They are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
A Department of State DS-2031 form signed by the exporter and importer must accompany all shrimp imports into the United States. If shrimp products are from a non-certified country, a government official of the harvesting nation must also certify the shrimp was caught without harming sea turtles. Users should note that exception 7.A.(2) on the form “Harvested Using TEDs” is currently a valid exception to the prohibition on imports from nations not certified under Public Law 101-162. However, the Department of State must determine in advance that a country wishing to use this exception has in place an enforcement and catch segregation system for making such individual shipment certifications. Presently, only Brazil and Australia have shown that they have a system in place for specific fisheries.
Section 609 implementation has provided considerable benefits to endangered sea turtles species, and use of well-designed and installed Turtle Excluder Device is an effective conservation method. Other countries are currently assessing Turtle Excluder Device technology and the United States assists those efforts through technology transfers and capacity building in the hope that more countries can contribute to sea turtle species recovery and be added to the certified list.