Washington, DC - Each year the Department of State helps protect sea turtles around the world by certifying to Congress that the governments and authorities of shrimp-harvesting nations and economies have programs in place to reduce the incidental taking of sea turtles in shrimp trawl fisheries. For 2018, the Department of State certified 39 nations and one economy, and granted determinations for nine fisheries as having adequate measures in place to protect sea turtles during the course of commercial shrimp fishing. This permits the importation of their wild-caught shrimp into the United States pursuant to Section 609 of Public Law 101-162 (“Section 609”).

Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles are considered endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The United States Government is currently providing technology and capacity-building assistance to other nations, in the hope they can contribute to the recovery of sea turtle species and become certified under Section 609. The United States also encourages enactment of similar legislation by other nations to prevent the importation of shrimp harvested in a manner harmful to protected sea turtles.

Section 609 prohibits the importation of wild-caught shrimp and products from shrimp harvested in ways that may adversely affect sea turtles unless the Department of State certifies to Congress that (1) the government or authorities of the harvesting nation or economy has adopted a regulatory program comparable to that of the United States to reduce the incidental taking of sea turtles in its shrimp trawl fisheries, such as through the use of turtle excluder devices (“TEDs”), or (2) the particular fishing environment of the harvesting nation or economy does not pose a danger to sea turtles. If properly designed, built, installed, used, and maintained, TEDs allow 97% of sea turtles to escape the shrimp net without appreciable loss of shrimp.

The annual certifications are based in part on the results of overseas verification visits by a team of Department of State and National Marine Fisheries Service representatives.