The United States Court of International Trade has denied the Trump administration’s request to lift a ban on certain seafood imports caught with gillnets that kill the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. In July, the court ordered the government to ban such imports from Mexico’s Gulf of California and this ruling upholds the earlier decision, according to the Maritime Executive.
As few as 15 vaquita remain, and almost half the population drowns in fishing gillnets each year. Absent immediate additional protection, the tiny porpoise could be extinct by 2021.
The import ban covers all fish and fish products from Mexican commercial fisheries that use gillnets within the vaquita’s range in the Upper Gulf of California. This includes shrimp, corvina (drum fish), sierra (Spanish mackerel) and chano (bigeye croaker) from the area. Gillnets are fishing nets that hang in the water, indiscriminately catching both target fish and other marine creatures, including vaquita. It is estimated that in 2017 alone more than 1,400 tons of the now-banned gillnet-caught fish and shrimp, valued at roughly $16m, crossed the border to be consumed in the US.