Mexico faces the threat of a trade embargo from the United States for failing to protect endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from getting entangled in fishing gear off the Baja California’s Gulf of Ulloa. Last week state government officials in Mexico reported that 705 loggerheads have stranded dead along a 30-mile shoreline so far this year, most during the summer fishing season, including 30 dead turtles in a single day. That’s more turtles than normally wash ashore annually along the U.S. coast from Texas to the Carolinas. Long-term scientific studies show that the leading cause of these deaths is preventable drowning in fishing gear; yet Mexican officials have claimed that only 1 percent of the reported turtle deaths were caused by bycatch.
“Loggerhead sea turtles are dying by the thousands along the Mexico coast,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The United States can ban the import of fish and other wildlife products from nations that fail to protect imperiled species, and this is a clear case where such strong action is necessary.”
The Pelly Amendment gives the United States the authority to embargo fish and other wildlife products from countries that violate wildlife-protection treaties, including the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles. A separate law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, authorizes sanctions against countries that allow excessive bycatch of U.S.-protected species, like loggerhead sea turtles.
Loggerhead mortality rates in the Gulf of Ulloa, as reported by the Mexican government as well as numerous scientific studies over the past decade, are among the highest documented in the world.
“Based on two decades of collaborative research we concluded that the main cause of these deaths is bycatch in fishing nets,” said Wallace 'J.' Nichols, Ph.D., a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences. “Even the Mexican government’s own scientists have pointed to bycatch.” More....