December 10, 2004

Shrimp Imports Tightened to Save Turtles

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sea turtles stand to gain protection from accidental killings through a new federal policy announced Thursday to require stricter documentation on imports of shrimp and shrimp products.

Under current law, such imports are prohibited if the shrimp are harvested in ways harmful to sea turtles, the largest of which can grow to six to eight feet long and weigh between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds.

The new policy from the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection requires original documents and signatures on such imports, with copies or faxes no longer accepted. Agency officials said that would help "avoid instances of fraudulent documents from uncertified countries."

It does not apply to certified countries - those the president certifies to Congress each year either have a commercial shrimp fishery program for reducing accidental deaths of sea turtles, or that pose no threat to sea turtles because of the natural fishing environment.

The authority to certify those nations has been delegated by the president to the State Department.

In the certified nations, exporters have to certify the shrimp was harvested properly. But since shrimp is sometimes sent to another country before it enters the United States, copies or faxes are allowed as long a Customs agent agrees.

Uncertified nations that don't comply with the new policy might not be allowed to export shrimp to the United States, the State Department said.


On the Net:

State Department: http://www.state.gov/g/oes/ocns