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NOAA Completes Review of Mexico Sea Turtle Bycatch Program

A loggerhead sea turtle entangled in a gillnet.

The United States is a global leader in the responsibly managed fisheries, aquaculture, sustainable seafood, and marine species conservation. As such, the United States works to ensure that other nations implement sustainable and ecosystem-based fisheries management programs.

On Friday, August 14, 2015, NOAA Fisheries issued the Government of Mexico a negative certification for not adopting a regulatory program comparable to that of the United States to address bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa, Baja California Sur under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.

In NOAA’s 2013 Biennial Report to Congress on improving international fisheries, Mexico was identified for not having effective management measures for mitigating bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the gillnet fishery in the Gulf of Ulloa. Countries identified for bycatch must implement a regulatory program comparable in effectiveness to relevant U.S. regulatory measures to receive a positive certification.

“The United States and Mexico share a strong commitment to the conservation of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles,” said John Henderschedt, Director of the NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection. “Bycatch of these turtles threatens their continued existence and addressing this bycatch supports sustainable populations of the species. We will continue to consult with Mexico to address this issue and encourage measures that would achieve a positive certification.”

On April 10, 2015, Mexico adopted a regulation to address bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles which includes establishing a fisheries reserve, creating a mortality limit for loggerheads within that reserve, and limited gear restrictions.

While the United States commends Mexico for taking this action, NOAA has determined that the regulatory program is not comparable in effectiveness to relevant U.S. regulatory measures. As a result, NOAA issued Mexico a negative certification stemming from its identification in the 2013 Biennial Report. The United States is committed to working collaboratively with Mexico through this process.

This is the first negative certification that NOAA has issued for either IUU fishing or bycatch of a protected living marine resource under the Moratorium Protection Act.