Last May 1st, the US government announced that it had certified 40 nations as meeting the requirements set by Section 609 of PL 101-162 for continued importation of shrimp into the United States, including Costa Rica. Ironically, as the US acknowledged the Costa Rican shrimp industry for protecting turtles, 13 artisinal fishing organization and PRETOMA filed suit against the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute INCOPESCA, for failure to enforce TED regulations and cause the deaths of at least 10,000 sea turtles per year. I have been working on this issue for over a decade, and know by experience that a US certification only means that on the day of the announced inspection, TEDs were installed during port inspections. Costa Rica has already been slapped with 3 embargoes since 1999 for failure to use TEDs. When the last embargo was imposed in 2005, inspectors busted 3 shrimp vessels cheating, on the day of the announced inspection! According to US law, to obtain a certification countries must have a comparable turtle conservation program (shrimp trawlers must use TEDs). The 13 fishing organizations and PRETOMA filed suit because 17 vessels have been captured without TEDS over the last 3.5 years, and not a single one has been sanctioned. Is this a comparable program? Do boats ever get busted in the US? If they do, do they ever pay fines? If so, then there is no way in which the Costa Rican program is comparable to the US program, and thus, the US must impose the embargo, as Costa Rican shrimp trawlers are killing turtles.
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