Today, NOAA Fisheries positively certified Mexico for its actions to reduce loggerhead sea turtle bycatch in the Mexican Gulf of Ulloa gillnet fishery. This announcement follows Mexico’s recent publication of revised and strengthened regulations and a July meeting between President Obama and Mexico’s President Peña Nieto. At that meeting, Peña Nieto announced the Mexican Government’s commitment to continue long-term protections established earlier this summer for North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles. Mexico and the United States have agreed to work together on research and improve shared knowledge on how to reduce bycatch of loggerheads.
In 2015, NOAA Fisheries negatively certified Mexico, under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, for not having a regulatory program to reduce bycatch of loggerhead sea turtles comparable in effectiveness to United States regulations. Earlier this summer, Mexico put in place regulations to reduce loggerhead bycatch in the 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.
Under the Moratorium Protection Act, the Secretary of Commerce is required to identify countries whose fishing vessels are engaged in bycatch of protected marine species for which the nation has not implemented a regulatory program that is comparable in effectiveness to that of the United States to address the bycatch. The identifications are included in a biennial report to Congress. Once a nation is identified, NOAA and its interagency partners engage with the nation to encourage it to address the issue identified. If nations take appropriate action, they receive a positive certification. If they do not, the nation receives a negative certification, which subjects the nation to U.S. port access denial for fishing vessels of that nation, and potential import restrictions on fish and fish products associated with the fishing activity for which the nation was identified.
NOAA announced our intent to issue this positive certification last month, after Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto met.