CMC blasts WTO sea turtle decision

World Trade Organization ruling threatens world's sea turtles with extinction

provided by Center for Marine Conservation

The Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) joined representatives of other conservation groups in condemning the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a ruling that threatens the survival of the world's endangered sea turtles. The WTO ruled against the United States over its law banning the import of shrimp from countries whose fishing fleets do not use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to protect endangered sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets. CMC was among the conservation groups that filed briefs before the WTO defending the U.S. policy.

At a Washington, DC, news conference, CMC Program Counsel Tim Eichenberg expressed outrage "that the WTO or any other international body could require U.S. markets to accept goods produced in a manner that imperils the existence of an entire life form." He noted that six of the seven known species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List, and the Convention on Migratory Species. In addition, all seven sea turtle species are listed under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

"The U.S. law that requires nations importing shrimp to have comparable sea turtle conservation programs is nondiscriminatory, scientifically supported, reasonable, and absolutely necessary to save endangered sea turtle species," Eichenberg said. He called shrimp fishing "the most wasteful fishery on earth." Worldwide, he said, about 84 percent of the marine life caught in shrimp nets is discarded, dead or dying. Before TEDs were required in U.S. waters, as many as 55,000 sea turtles were killed each year in shrimp nets. Proper use of the inexpensive and efficient devices allows 97 percent of sea turtles caught in shrimp nets to escape, with little or no loss of shrimp catch.

Eichenberg also blasted the Clinton Administration for allowing a recent State Department decision to loosen restrictions on shipments of shrimp from nations that do not have comprehensive TEDs programs. He called on the Administration "to abandon its harmful new import policy, assert leadership in reforming the WTO's anti-environmental policies, work to ratify the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, and negotiate other multilateral agreements to protect sea turtles from extinction."

The Center for Marine Conservation is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated solely to protecting ocean environments and conserving the global diversity of marine life. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, CMC promotes informed citizen participation to reverse the degradation of our oceans. Established in 1972, CMC has 120,000 members. Headquartered in Washington, DC, CMC has regional offices in California, Florida, and Virginia.

  Contact: Kathy Westra, (202) 857-5550