ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SEEK INCREASED TURTLE PROTECTION THROUGH USMCA
On December 17, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Mexican Center for Environmental Law filed a petition under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement for the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement. The petition claims the Mexican government has failed in its duties to protect endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from injury and death due to fishing gear entanglements off the coasts of the United States and Mexico (Reuters, Center for Biological Diversity).
The USCMA obligates its Member States to strictly enforce their domestic environmental laws. While Mexico has existing legal protections for endangered species like the loggerhead turtle, the species has continued to face serious danger from commercial fishing operations. Between 2017 and 2019, 889 loggerhead sea turtles were found dead in Baja California Sur (Reuters, Fronteras Desk). Though official records for 2020 have yet to be released, an estimated 351 more turtles have died from fishing net entanglement between January and June of this year (Center for Biological Diversity). This petition also comes in the aftermath of large-scale budget cuts to the Mexican government’s environmental protection efforts (Associated Press, Vallarta Daily).
The petition was filed with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a regional panel that gained additional weight and power following ratification of the USMCA (Reuters). If the petition is accepted, the Commission will be tasked with creating a factual record assessing Mexico’s compliance with its environmental laws, accompanied by recommendations for improved action (Fronteras Desk).