Sea Shepherd Global has formally requested that the U.S. Department of State investigate sustainable shrimp fisheries in Nigeria with the aim of setting requirements for turtle excluder devices.
Known as the Section 609 certification process, this program requires turtle excluder device on vessels of nations importing shrimp to the U.S. The devices are grates attached to the mouths of shrimp trawl nets that keep sea turtles and other marine life out of the nets.
Given that the U.S. is the world’s largest single importer of shrimp, the Section 609 program serves as a critical tool in the protection of sea turtles and other marine life around the world, says Sea Shepherd.
As a significant importer of shrimp to the United States, Nigeria enjoys the economic benefits of its Section 609 certification. However, evidence uncovered by Sea Shepherd Global of illegal shrimp fishing by a Nigerian-flagged vessel calls that certification into doubt.
For several months now, Sea Shepherd Global has been conducting a campaign in cooperation with the Liberian Ministry of National Defense, designed to combat illegal fishing in Liberia’s heavily-poached waters. The campaign’s objective is to enhance Liberia’s enforcement capacity by providing Liberia with a Sea Shepherd vessel (the M/Y Bob Barker) carrying a team of Liberian Coastguard sailors.
On March 13, 2017, Liberian officers arrested and detained the Star Shrimper XXV in Liberian waters on suspicion of illegal fishing. The vessel was found trawling for shrimp without a turtle exclusion device in waters known to contain leatherback sea turtles. Star Shrimper XXV is a member of a massive fleet of 70 Nigerian shrimping vessels owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Limited which advertises its alleged sustainable practices, including the ability to market shrimp to the U.S. by virtue of Nigeria’s Section 609 certification.
Sea Shepherd Global strongly suspects that the Star Shrimper XXV’s illegal shrimping is not an isolated incident – especially given the size of the fleet. To convince the U.S. State Department to open a formal investigation, Sea Shepherd Global submitted detailed briefing and evidence concerning the Star Shrimper XXV’s illegal activities. In its submission, Sea Shepherd Global urges U.S. authorities to “see this incident as an ominous red flag, calling into question the entire [Atlantic Shrimpers] fleet.”