The U.S. Department of State formally notified Congress on March 24, 2010, that it had withdrawn Mexico's certification under Section 609 of United States Public Law 101-162 (Section 609). Section 609 prohibits the importation of shrimp and shrimp products harvested in ways that may adversely affect sea turtle species. This prohibition does not apply where 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 that are comparable in effectiveness to measures taken in the United States, such as the mandatory use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs), or other conditions that do not threaten sea turtles.
The Department of State withdrew Mexico’s certification after the Department determined, in consultation with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, that Mexico’s TED program no longer met standards established under Section 609. The U.S. Government has provided the Government of Mexico with detailed technical recommendations and capacity-building support to improve its program and will seek further opportunities help Mexico toward reinstatement of certification within the shortest period of time consistent with the requirements of Section 609.
As a result of the certification withdrawal, wild-harvest shrimp from Mexico’s commercial trawl fisheries may not be imported into the United States effective April 20, 2010 until Section 609 certification for Mexico is reinstated. Imports of Mexican wild-harvest shrimp may be permitted entry into the United States until April 20 to avoid disruption to shipments already in the import process. The Department of State is notifying U.S. importers of the certification withdrawal.
Implementation of Section 609 has provided considerable benefits to endangered sea turtles species. Six of the seven species of marine turtles are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Well-designed and installed TEDs reduce the mortality of sea turtles incidentally caught in shrimp trawl nets by up to 97 percent without appreciable loss of shrimp. The United States Government is currently providing technology and capacity building assistance to a variety of nations in the hope that they can contribute to the recovery of sea turtle species and be certified under Section 609.