On April 19, the Department of State certified 39 nations and one economy as having adequate measures in place to protect sea turtles during the course of shrimp trawl fishing, which permits those countries to export wild-caught shrimp to the United States under Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 (Section 609). Section 609 bans the import of wild-caught shrimp and shrimp products harvested in ways that may adversely affect some sea turtle species unless the Department of State certifies to Congress that the government of the harvesting nation has taken measures to reduce the incidental catch of sea turtles in its shrimp trawl fisheries, such as through the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs), or that the fishing environment of the harvesting nation does not threaten sea turtles. The Department makes certifications annually by May 1 and bases them in part on the results of verification visits by State Department and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) teams to exporting countries. For more information on the 2012 certification, see the Federal Register Notice on the 2012 Certification published at 77 FR 31062 on May 24: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-05-24/pdf/2012-12635.pdf.
Implementation of Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 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 they can contribute to the recovery of sea turtle species and be certified under Section 609. For more information on United States Government sea turtle conservation efforts, please go to http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/fish/bycatch/turtles/index.htm.