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Mexico to Better Protect Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Turtle Island Restoration Network and Center for Biological Diversity’s formal petition was successful in getting the Mexican Gulf of Ulloa gillnet fishery to reduce the number of sea turtles caught, harmed, and killed.

In 2013 Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to “certify” Mexico for its sea turtle bycatch. Bycatch is a fisheries term to describe any marine animal caught that is not the fishery’s intended target. For example, if a fishery targeting swordfish catches a whale, the whale is considered “bycatch.”

Under a U.S. law called the Moratorium Protection Act, the NMFS is required to “certify” any nation whose fisheries kill more protected species, like sea turtles, than would be allowed in the United States. Once the offending nation is “certified,” NOAA provides recommendations on how to meet the necessary requirements, and if those are not met the law requires the President to ban that importation of seafood products from the nation.

In 2015, NMFS announced that Mexico’s fisheries were killing too many endangered loggerhead sea turtles, and officially “certified” Mexico under the Moratorium Protection Act saying that its fishing regulations were not comparable to the laws and regulations followed by U.S. fisherman to protect sea turtles.  Together Turtle Island and the Center  pressured the White House to quickly authorize a strong embargo on seafood products from Mexican fisheries.

In response to this serious threat, Mexico made changes to its fishing regulations. Over the summer, the country put in place a series of rules to reduce loggerhead bycatch in the driftnet fishery. “The regulations implement fishing gear restrictions, limit the number of sea turtle deaths due to fishing, and establish a fisheries refuge. Mexico says these measures will remain in place to ensure loggerhead conservation and long-term fishery sustainability and resiliency,” explained NOAA. These changes and others allowed NOAA in 2016 to positively certify Mexico for its actions to reduce loggerhead sea turtle bycatch in the Mexican Gulf of Ulloa gillnet fishery.

This July, U.S. President Obama and Mexico’s President Peña Nieto met and discussed ways to further cooperate by sharing research and ideas about how to reduce sea turtles bycatch. President Nieto expressed his Government’s desire to continue to protect North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles.

Thanks to support from our members we were able to file this important petition, and bring about positive change that will result in fewer sea turtle-industrial fishing interactions in Mexico.