Imports of Some Seafood from Mexico Banned Under Court Decision
The Court of International Trade has ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to prohibit imports of fish or fish products from any Mexican commercial fishery that uses gillnets within the range of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (i.e., the Upper Gulf of California).
In May 2017 NMFS received a petition requesting that it initiate an emergency rulemaking to impose such a ban. The petition blamed gillnet bycatch for a 95 percent decline in the vaquita population over the last two decades and maintained that any fishery using gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California violates U.S. standards under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Several conservation groups filed suit at the CIT in March 2018 seeking to push NMFS to action.
In a July 26 ruling the court granted a request for a preliminary injunction requiring the government to ban the affected imports (which include shrimp, corvina, Spanish mackerel, and bigeye croaker) pending final adjudication of this case. The court explained that the purpose of the MMPA is the preservation of marine mammal species and that the ban is legally required under the imports provision of that law because the number of permissible vaquita deaths is being exceeded and the species is at risk of extinction.