KOCHI: With export of Indian wild-caught shrimp to the United States being affected for the past seven months due to alleged non-compliance with the US regulations to protect sea turtles, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) has issued an advisory urging the fishing regulators to make the use of turtle excluder devices (TED) mandatory on all trawl nets used by trawl vessels.
Though an expert team from the US Department of State was expected to visit Kerala in January, the visit was postponed in view of the US Government shut down. According to the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), the export of wild-caught shrimp has been affected since July, 2018, due to the restrictions imposed by the US State Department. Wild-caught shrimp constitutes around 11 per cent of the Rs 1,500-crore shrimp export to the US from India. “The team is expected to visit Kerala by February-end,” said a senior officer.
On May 1, 2017, the Department of State had certified 39 nations and one economy, and granted determinations for seven fisheries, as having adequate measures in place to protect sea turtles during commercial shrimp fishing. Only these countries are allowed to export shrimp to the US. However, India does not feature in the list of certified countries.
“The very low intensity of turtle nesting does not warrant the use of TEDs in trawls along the west coast of India. However, as a precautionary measure, trawl fishers may be advised to use them in their trawl nets with adequate state support and incentives,” the CMFRI said in its advisory.
To conserve marine turtles in Indian waters, fishery interactions with these animals have to be constantly monitored. This is currently being done through the catch recording and monitoring system by CMFRI which employs nearly 100 observers in all landing ports and beaches of the country. The CMFRI has decided to generate specific annual reports on turtle-fishery every year, said principal scientist K Sunil Mohamed.
Since there are possibilities of incidental turtle capture in trawl nets, the use of TEDs developed by the CIFT should be made mandatory on all trawl nets in trawl vessels. Necessary rule changes have to be made in the Marine Fisheries Regulation Act (MFRA) by the respective maritime states, said the advisory.
The ban came as a blow to the Indian shrimp exporters as the country was the largest exporter of frozen shrimp to the US in 2017, with 32 per cent share. India’s exports jumped from 11,000 tonnes in 2016-17 to 25,888 tonnes in 2017-18.