A trade court Thursday ordered the Trump administration to implement a ban
on seafood imports from Mexico caught with a method tied to harming an
endangered porpoise species.
The United States Court of International Trade ruled that the government
must ban Mexican imports of seafood caught using gillnets, a fishing
technique that has been found to injure and kill the critically endangered
Scientists believe there are only 15 vaquitas left in the wild, which could
leave the species extinct by 2021.
The court denied the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss the case
writing, “Evidence shows that vaquita are killed by gillnet fishing and are
on the verge of extinction: because the statutory duty to ban fish imports
resulting in such excessive marine mammal bycatch is mandatory, the
Government must comply with it.”
Gillnets are a type of fishing net that is hung in the water to catch
The case brought by three conservation groups, the Natural Resources Defense
Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Welfare
Institute against the Department of Commerce argues that it is the U.S.
government’s duty to enact a ban on Mexico under the Marine Mammal
Protection Act for the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise.
The court agreed, determining that the “law commands” that “the Secretary of
the Treasury shall ban imports of fish and fish products from northern Gulf
fisheries that utilize gillnets and incidentally kill vaquita in excess of
United States standards.”
The vaquita is most often found in the upper Gulf of California. Seafood
products typically caught with gillnets include shrimp, corvina, Spanish
mackerel and bigeye croaker.
According to data compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service under
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. imported more than
$55 million worth of seafood from Mexico in 2017.
More than 90 percent of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is imported.