In this issue, you’ll find a news brief about NOAA’s 2023 Report to Congress on Improving International Fisheries Management, which identifies seven nations and entities, including Mexico, that are engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
One of the more important parts of the document states that the Mexican government has not done enough to stop illegal fishing vessels in its territorial waters, despite the U.S. bringing the problem to Mexico’s attention numerous times since 2015.
The fishing vessels in question, known as lanchas, are catching finfish stocks that are regulated by the United States, including red snapper. Because of this, the U.S. government has decided to keep in place sanctions that have been in place against the Mexican government since February 2022.
The sanctions, among other things, prohibit Gulf of Mexico vessels from docking, refueling or receiving any other services at any and all U.S. ports.
Additionally, NOAA Fisheries has negatively certified Mexico for its lack of a regulatory program to reduce or eliminate the incidental capture of sea turtles with gillnets in the Baja California Sur peninsula on the country’s West Coast.
The U.S. has also left open the possibility of imposing an embargo on imports of fish from Mexico.
But despite numerous engagements with the Government of Mexico and related port restrictions, as well as the possibility of further negative actions, incursions continue, the report states, adding that the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted a total of 321 lanchas for suspicion of illegal fishing from 2020-22.
“The rate of recidivism is soaring, with some Mexican nationals interdicted up to 40 times,” the report states. “This indicates that those carrying out the illegal fishing perceive minimal or no consequences for this behavior.”
“There is no evidence to support a determination that appropriate corrective actions have been taken to address this issue,” the report continues. “Accordingly, (NOAA Fisheries) negatively certified Mexico. This negative certification will remain in place until such time that there is sufficient evidence to support a positive certification.”
A positive certification determination requires documented evidence of actions to effectively address Mexican lancha incursions into the U.S., as well as a reduction in the number of repeat offenders, according to NOAA.
Regarding the sea turtles, NOAA Fisheries said that since 2015 it has called out Mexico for its lack of a regulatory program comparable in effectiveness to that of America’s to reduce or minimize bycatch.
In response, Mexico reported that it has put in place regulations to reduce loggerhead bycatch in the fishery, including fishing gear restrictions, onboard video monitoring, a sea turtle mortality limit and the establishment of a refuge area.
However, “in spite of these measures, Mexican Wildlife Law Enforcement reported significant strandings of deceased loggerhead sea turtles on the shores of the Gulf of Ulloa from 2018-2020,” the report states.
NOAA has said that it was alarmed by the magnitude of the mortalities involving a shared stock of an endangered sea turtle and concerned that the measures in place were not being fully or effectively implemented.
“Mexico failed to provide any documentary evidence to support the assertion that these regulatory programs were being fully implemented,” the report states.
NOAA Fisheries has said that it plans to continue working with Mexico to address bycatch concerns, but that for now, certain restrictions are in place.
“During the period for which the negative certification applies, the United States will implement appropriate restrictions on U.S. port access for Mexican-flagged vessels,” the report states.
NOAA’s full 110-page Report to Congress can be read at https://tinyurl.com/3nych4mv.
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at email@example.com