Los Angeles, Aug 1 (EFE).- A court order that restricts seafood imports from Mexico with the aim of saving a critically endangered cetacean could further complicate efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to experts consulted by EFE.
Judge Gary Katzmann of the New York City-based United States Court of International Trade handed down a ruling last week that orders the US government to ban imports of gillnet-harvested fish and fish products from northwestern Mexico’s Gulf of California.
That area is the natural habitat of the world’s smallest porpoise, the vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a species whose numbers may have fallen to as few as 30 globally, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Vaquita are frequently caught and drowned in gillnets used by illegal fishing operations in marine protected areas within Mexico’s Gulf of California, the WWF says.
The imports barred under the ruling, which follows a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, include shrimp, the Gulf corvina, the sierra (Spanish mackerel) and the chano (Bigeye croaker).
The deputy director of the Washington-based Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, Christopher Wilson, said the ban could add another obstacle to the fraught efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.
The process of revising NAFTA, which links the US, Mexico and Canada, got under way in August 2017 at the initiative of US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly denounced the pact as a “disaster” for American firms and workers.
Wilson said in a statement sent to EFE that the timing of the ban, which comes amid an ongoing trade dispute over US steel and aluminum tariffs and possible auto tariffs on the horizon, was quite a negative development for bilateral relations.
For her part, Sarah Uhlemann – international program director at the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, one of groups that filed the suit in March – said the ruling was painful but necessary.
She added that the Mexican government had pledged for more than two decades to protect the vaquita but has yet to take any significant action.