San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. bans Costa Rican shrimp

The investigations of a national sea turtle conservation group has helped lead to a U.S. embargo on all Costa Rican shrimp.

The U.S. Department of State´s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science announced it has stopped importing Costa Rican shrimp, effective May 1.

The Marine Turtle Restoration Program (PRETOMA) spent a year investigating the practices of Costa Rica´s shrimp fishermen and determined that boats and nets lacked effective Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) – devices that keep turtles and other large marine life from being trapped in shrimp nets. PRETOMA submitted its findings to the State Department, which imposed the embargo.

Costa Rican law requires all nets to have the devices but PRETOMA spokesman Andy Bystrom said the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute (INCOPESCA) does not enforce the policy.

“It´s the 64,000 dollar question,” Bystrom said of INCOPESCA´s lack of enforcement. “Their institution is set up to do one thing – adhere to legal fishing policies – but they aren´t doing it.”

From 2004 through 2008, the fisheries authorities recorded 29 TED violations, all of which went unpunished.

Bystrom said the U.S. law requires shrimp fisherman to use TED devices, and the United States refuses to do business with countries that do not enforce the policy.

The embargo will last until May 1, 2010 when officials from the U.S. State Department will reevaluate the situation of TEDs on Costa Rica´s shrimp boats to determine if the embargo can be lifted.

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