San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican Shrimp Won’t Be Heading North Soon

The investigation of a national sea turtle conservation group has provoked a United States embargo on all Costa Rican shrimp.

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science announced it stopped importing Costa Rican shrimp as of 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 sufficient Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – devices that keep turtles and other large marine life from being trapped in shrimp nets. PRETOMA submitted its findings to the U.S. State Department, which imposed the embargo.

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

“It’s the $64,000 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 which do not enforce the policy.

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

According to the governmental Foreign Trade Promotion Office (PROCOMER), Costa Rica exported $1.2 million worth of shrimp in 2007.

– Mike McDonald


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