US to close Gulf ports to Mexican fishing boats over poaching

MEXICO CITY — The U.S. government will block Mexican fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that the Mexican government has not done enough to prevent its boats from illegally fishing in U.S. waters.

Beginning Feb. 7, Mexican fishing vessels in the Gulf “are barred from entering U.S. ports, will be denied port access and services,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in a publicly available report. Wednesday.

The move ends a years-long problem with U.S. efforts to protect valuable red snapper stocks along its Gulf Coast.

Small Mexican boats frequently use prohibited longlines or nets to haul snappers into US waters, then sometimes even resell them to US customers. Such nets and lines can indiscriminately trap marine life.

The NOAA report criticized Mexico for “its continued failure to address unauthorized fishing activities by small hulled vessels (called lanchas) in US waters”.

“The United States is committed to working with the Government of Mexico to support its actions to address issues identified in 2019 and 2021, and is prepared to restore U.S. port privileges for Mexican fishing vessels operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico once the actions are completed. taken by Mexico,” according to the report.

Mexico’s environment and economy departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the decision.

NOAA said in a previous report that the US Coast Guard apprehended dozens of Mexican boats in the Gulf, including “large numbers of repeat offenders from Mexico, some having been interdicted more than 20 times since 2014.”

He noted that the United States imported nearly five tons of fresh and frozen snapper from Mexico in 2018, “raising concerns that these imports may have included fish harvested illegally from U.S. waters.”

Environmental group Oceana Mexico said in a statement that “Mexico has yet to fully implement its USMCA (United States-Mexico Canada Free Trade Pact) environmental commitments regarding environmental practices. sustainable fisheries”.

Environmentalists say Mexico’s attitude on the Gulf fisheries dispute reflects its lack of effort to stop gillnet fishing in the Sea of ​​Cortez, or Gulf of California, which has driven the porpoise vaquita marina to the edge of extinction.

Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “The United States has rightfully sanctioned the Mexican government again for failing to contain illegal fishing.

“This time, Mexican officials did not stop the boats from illegally entering US waters to fish. Last fall, they failed to convince fishermen to use gear that protects endangered sea turtles,” Uhlemann said, adding that Mexico “is failing to stop rampant illegal fishing in the high in the Gulf of California to save the endangered vaquita porpoise. The clear message from the United States is that the Mexican government must clean up its fishing practices or lose a vital seafood trading partner.”

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