Environmental Groups Seek USMCA Review Of Sea Turtle Deaths In Mexico

By Kendal Blust
Published: Thursday, December 17, 2020 - 2:37pm
Updated: Thursday, December 17, 2020 - 4:22pm

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dead sea turtle
Alex Olivera/Center For Biological Diversity
A stranded loggerhead sea turtle at San Lazaro Beach, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Environmental groups filed a petition under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) over what they call the Mexican government’s failure to protect endangered sea turtles from drowning in fishing gear.

Hundreds of endangered north Pacific loggerhead sea turtles die every year off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Sur after getting entangled in fishing nets and other gear.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law are asking the USMCA Commission on Environmental Cooperation to assess Mexico’s compliance with environmental laws.

"It needs to be discussed by the three environmental authorities at the highest levels," said Alejandro Olivera, senior scientist and Mexico representative for the Center for Biological Diversity. "The problem, it’s on the enforcement and the budget allocated on the enforcement."

Olivera said Mexico isn’t enforcing existing laws and regulations to protect sea turtles, and that those laws need to be strengthened. Instead, Mexico has been severely cutting back its environmental budget, leaving the country's natural resources unprotected.

North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles are born in Japan and migrate to U.S. and Mexican waters as juveniles. But a failure to protect them from entanglements with fishing gear "could bring a tragic end to their millions of years of migrating to our coast," Olivera said.

The petition filed Thursday be discussed by high-level environmental authorities from each country, bringing new awareness to the issue, Olivera said. And if accepted by the commission, the petition will also result in a factual record that assesses Mexico's compliance with environmental laws and recommendations to the Mexican government.

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