Sanction Occurs During Costa Rican Hosted Sea Turtle Treaty Meeting

San Jose, COSTA RICA August 21, 2003 – The US State Department announced in a statement that Costa Rican shrimp exports to the US will be banned until further notice, because of Costa Rica’s failure to enforce its laws that requires shrimp fishers to use Turtle Excluder Devices. Apparently, Costa Rica failed an announced inspection by the US Departments of State and National Fisheries this summer. The US turtle-shrimp law (P.L. 101 162, section 609) requires nations who export shrimp to the US to use ‘comparable’ sea turtle protection measures US shrimpers are required to use, namely a device called a turtle excluder device (TED).

In May, sea turtle biologist Randall Arauz released the results of his study funded by the Costa Rican Ministry of Science Technology (MICIT), testing a modified turtle excluder device (TED), known as the ‘Tico TED’, on Costa Rican vessels. In spite of the full support of the local Puntarenas Chamber of Fishermen, general non-compliance by vessel Captains did not allow for proper testing and scientific analysis.

Arauz, Central American director of the environmental organization Turtle Island Restoration Network, based in California, Texas and Costa Rica, and President of the Costa Rican environmental organization PRETOMA said, “I have conducted investigations in every country in Central America, and none of these nation’s shrimpers are using TEDs either. The US should be even-handed, and embargo the shrimp of every Central American nation. To do otherwise, is simply unfair to Costa Rica.”

Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, who had previously sued the State Department for its failure to implement the law properly said, “Costa Rica shrimp fishers non-compliance with TED laws is a chronic problem occurring throughout the world that is well known by US government officials, who conduct announced-in-advance inspections only to find shiny new TEDs that show no wear, and are sometimes sewn in upside down. While we applaud the US for finally enforcing the provision of the turtle-shrimp law, we seriously question the timing of dropping this embargo bomb in the middle of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC)– with Costa Rica serving as host and Secretariat of the treaty organization, and playing a progressive role in its in administration.” Steiner called the embargo timing “the result of some bureaucratic comedy of errors, or worse.” Steiner also noted that the heavy-handed action comes on the heels of US shrimpers pleas for economic relief made to their representatives in Congress, including calls for tariffs on imported shrimp to help ease the low price shrimpers are being paid for their catch as they try to compete with cheap imports (see US shrimpers, below).

Arauz said, “The way too help sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets is to work effectively with the fishermen.” In addition to working with the Puntarenas Chamber of Fishermen to create a TED that works well in Costa Rican waters, the conservation organizations arranged for US shrimper and inventor of the TED, Sinkey Boone, of Darien, GA, to travel to Costa Rica to help Costa Rican shrimpers learn how to properly use TEDs. Boone is currently in Costa Rica and is planning to meet with the Costa Rican shrimpers this Friday (8/22). Boone said, “Once they (Costa Rican fishers) know how to make them (TEDs) work right, they will see with their own eyes that TEDs not only save turtles, they improve shrimp catch by reducing unwanted ‘bycatch’ and allowing you to trawl longer. You can get a better price for the shrimp because it’s not squished or broken by the trash, and it reduces wear and tear on the nets by expelling the unwanted debris.”

For photo of dead turtle on shrimp boat, see

For more information on US shrimpers

For more information on shrimp fishing and turtles, see

To contact the US State Department Office of Ocean Affairs, call 202 647 2335

Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Sea Turtle Restoration Project is an international environmental organization founded in 1989 with offices in California, Texas and Costa Rica that works to protect marine biodiversity and restore populations of sea turtles worldwide. For more information, visit

PRETOMA is a Costa Rican-based environmental organization that works to promote responsible fisheries and community development while protecting marine biodiversity, especially sea turtles and sharks. For more information, visit

Turtle Island and PRETOMA often collaborate on projects of international significance using shared staff and resources.