On May 1st, the U.S. State Department certified forty nations and the administrative region of Hong Kong as meeting the requirements set by U.S. law for continued importation of shrimp into the United States.
U.S. law prohibits importation of shrimp and shrimp products harvested in a manner that may adversely affect sea turtle species. The import prohibition does not apply in cases where the Department of State certifies annually to the U.S. Congress that the government of the harvesting nation has taken measures to reduce the incidental taking of sea turtles in its shrimp trawl fisheries – or that the fishing environment of the harvesting nation does not threaten sea turtle species.
The U.S. requires that commercial shrimp boats use devices that prevent the accidental drowning of sea turtles in shrimp trawls. The sixteen nations meeting this standard are: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Suriname, and Venezuela. The State Department also certified specific fisheries in Brazil and Australia, having shown they have systems in place to protect sea turtles in these specific waters.
Twenty-four nations and one economy were certified as having fishing environments that do not pose a danger to sea turtles. Of these, Hong Kong and eight nations – the Bahamas, China, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Jamaica, Oman, Peru and Sri Lanka – harvest shrimp using manual rather than mechanical means to retrieve nets, or use other fishing methods not harmful to sea turtles. Sixteen nations have shrimp fisheries only in cold waters, where the risk of taking sea turtles is negligible. They are: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
Importation of shrimp from all other nations will be prohibited unless harvested by fish-farming in cold-water regions where sea turtle are not likely found, or by specialized techniques that do not threaten sea turtles. The U.S. will continue to do its part to ensure the survival of sea turtles and other threatened species.