Illegal Fishing: Mexican Fishing Vessels Lose Access to US Ports in the Gulf of Mexico

A fishing port on the Tecolutla River, in Veracruz.
A fishing port on the Tecolutla River, in Veracruz.Victoria Razo

Since Monday, Mexican fishing boats have been prohibited from entering US ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The sanction responds to the decision of the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, for its acronym in English) to give the Latin American country a “negative certification” after registering an increase in illegal fishing in US waters. The agency considered that it did not have “sufficient evidence” that Mexico had taken the appropriate actions to address the problem.

Mexico has been in the US crosshairs since 2019. That year the Mexican authorities were informed by NOAA that Mexico had been identified as one of the countries with illegal fishing. Since then there have been meetings between governments to strengthen actions against this activity. In a report to the US Congress, delivered in August 2021, NOAA values ​​”some efforts” on the part of Mexico, but considers that they have not been enough to end this practice.

Reports of illegal fishing by Mexican boats doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. In addition, from October 2019 to September 2020, the US arrested 107 people who repeated this activity, compared to 63 a year earlier. In just six months, from October 2020 to February 2021, 84 repeat offenders were arrested. In the report, Mexico is mentioned along with six other countries, including Russia, Taiwan, China, Costa Rica, Guyana and Senegal. The Latin American country was also included in another list of some thirty nations designated for incidental catches of protected species.

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As a result of this report, the US imposed a ban on Mexico entering its fishing ports in mid-January, effective as of Monday. For the sanction to be lifted, NOAA affirms that a decrease in the number of incursions by Mexican boats and in the number of repeat offenders is required. “The US is committed to working with the Government of Mexico to support its actions (…) and is ready to restore privileges in US ports once actions are taken,” NOAA reported in January.

The Secretary of the Economy, Tatiana Clouthier, stated this Monday in an interview with Carmen Aristegui that meetings will be held to try to lift the ban, although she has not given a calendar. “In a few more days we will have a meeting with environmental organizations to see how we are going to do it,” he said. The Mexican fishing sector is the livelihood of 300,000 families and represents annual income of approximately 38,000 million pesos, according to 2017 figures cited by Oceana, an NGO dedicated to maritime conservation.

Oceana has called on the Mexican government to promote a new traceability standard that allows knowing the origin of the products. The project has been stalled in the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission (Conapesca) since March 2021, according to the NGO. “It is necessary for the Government to participate in the fight against illegal fishing and the protection of the Mexican fishing sector that represents jobs and important income for the economy,” said Mariana Aziz, director of Transparency at Oceana, in a statement in January.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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