The Department of State plays an important role in protecting wildlife all over the world. As part of that mission, each year the Secretary of State (or the Secretary’s delegate) certifies to Congress that governments and authorities of shrimp-harvesting nations and economies have programs to reduce the incidental taking of sea turtles in shrimp trawl fisheries. This decision impacts the ability of countries to export shrimp to U.S. consumers.
This year, the Department suspended the certification of the People’s Republic of China for using shrimp trawl fishing methods that may adversely affect sea turtles. The Department also suspended the certification of Venezuela because the former Maduro regime would not permit the U.S. technical team into the country to assess Venezuela’s shrimp harvesting practices.
For 2020, the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment certified 37 nations and Hong Kong and granted determinations for 12 fisheries as having adequate measures in place to protect sea turtles during the course of commercial shrimp fishing. Annual certifications are based in part on overseas verification visits by State Department and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service representatives. Certification allows for the importation of wild-caught shrimp into the United States pursuant to Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 (“Section 609”).
Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Implementation of Section 609 provides considerable benefits to sea turtle species. The U.S. government currently provides technology and capacity-building assistance to other nations to help them protect and revitalize their sea turtle species and to help them certify under Section 609. When properly designed, built, installed, used, and maintained, Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) allow 97 percent of sea turtles to escape the shrimp net without appreciable loss of shrimp. The U.S. government encourages similar legislation in other countries to prevent the importation of shrimp harvested in a manner harmful to sea turtles.
For more information on the Certification to Congress, please see the Federal Register Notice published on April 30, 2020, at 85 FR 24074. For more information on U.S. government sea turtle conservation efforts, please visit the websites of the State Department’s Office of Marine Conservation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Fish and Wildlife Service.