Oceana Demands That The U.S. & Mexico Fulfill Their Legal Commitments To Protect Our Oceans & The Last 330 North Atlantic Right Whales On Earth
According to Oceana, two years after Mexico and the United States signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the countries have failed to comply with their environmental commitments to protect our oceans, putting millions of species of marine wildlife at risk. Under the USMCA, public stakeholders can hold any of the three countries accountable for not effectively enforcing their environmental laws.
According to Oceana, Mexico and the U.S. have failed to uphold their environmental commitments to protect our oceans, including the fight against illegal fishing, the recovery of overexploited species, and the protection of habitats and marine species, including the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Mariana Aziz, director of Oceana’s transparency campaign in Mexico, explained that Mexico’s lack of action to combat illegal fishing has already had consequences for the country and its fishers. “Mexico has been the subject of several commercial embargoes over the past few years,” she said. “Mexico is losing access to important international markets because we cannot demonstrate the legal origin of our seafood.”
Mexico’s National Commission for Aquaculture and Fisheries (CONAPESCA) estimates that more than 40% of seafood comes from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. In addition, overfishing in Mexico affects 4 out of 10 fish species.
Currently, the United States has a commercial embargo on fish from the Upper Gulf of California. Since February, the United States has prohibited Mexican vessels from the Gulf of Mexico from entering its ports. Last year, from April to October, Mexico lost its certification to export shrimp for failing to meet standards to prevent sea turtle bycatch. Bycatch is the incidental catch of non-target fish and marine wildlife that are caught and often thrown overboard, dead or dying, to avoid counting towards a catch limit.
According to Oceana, the United States is failing to uphold its environmental laws to protect North Atlantic right whales, which are critically endangered with only an estimated 330 whales remaining in the wild. These whales are found along the East Coast of the United States and Canada, and continue to decline in population each year — most recently by 8% between 2019 and 2020. The federal government is not fully complying, implementing, or enforcing several environmental laws that protect North Atlantic right whales from their primary threats of deadly fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes.
In the fall of 2021, Oceana filed the first-ever complaint, or “Submission on Enforcement Matters,” against the U.S. government under the USMCA. Council members for USMCA’s Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) must now vote to pursue a formal investigation into the failures by the U.S. to enforce its environmental laws to protect North Atlantic right whales. Should these failures be successfully challenged by Mexico or Canada, the United States could face trade restrictions.
“The United States is clearly violating the terms of the USMCA,” said Gib Brogan, campaign director at Oceana. “The U.S. government cannot require Mexico and Canada to uphold their environmental laws under the USMCA, while failing to enforce its own laws to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. It’s time to hold the United States accountable — the U.S. must do more to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales before they disappear forever. Oceana encourages CEC Council members to vote yes at this meeting to start the investigation into the United States’ failure to uphold its laws to save North Atlantic right whales from extinction. With only an estimated 330 North Atlantic right whales remaining, the time to act is now.”
Learn more about Oceana’s campaign to save North Atlantic right whales, HERE!
Learn more about their campaign to fight illegal fishing in Mexico, HERE!
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