State Department Suspends the Section 609 Shrimp Certifications for China and Venezuela

In a Federal Register notice published today, the U.S. Department of State announced that it was suspending the certifications made, pursuant to Section 609 of Public Law 101-162, of the commercial shrimp fishery in China and Venezuela.  With regard to China, the State Department explained that the suspension of the People’s Republic of China resulted “due to the use of methods of harvesting shrimp that may adversely affect sea turtles.”  With regard to Venezuela, the State Department announced a suspension “due to the inability to confirm whether its methods of harvesting shrimp may adversely affect sea turtles.”
With the suspension of the Section 609 certifications for these two countries, only shrimp harvested through aquaculture may be imported from China and Venezuela.  Separately, shrimp harvested through aquaculture in China is subject to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Import Alert 16-131, “Detention without Physical Examination of Aquacultured, Shrimp, Dace, and Eel from China – Presence of New Animal Drugs and/or Unsafe Food Additives” when imported into the United States.  Now, with the State Department’s suspension of China’s Section 609 certification, importers may no longer evade Import Alert 16-131 through a bare declaration by the foreign exporter that the Chinese shrimp to be imported was wild-caught rather than farmed.
In February, the Southern Shrimp Alliance formally requested that the State Department re-evaluate the eligibility of China’s commercial shrimp fishing fleet for a Section 609 certification.  In a paper submitted to the agency in support of its request, the Southern Shrimp Alliance presented information regarding the dire conditions of sea turtle populations in Chinese waters, as well as studies and reports indicating that the Chinese commercial shrimping fleet was likely having a significant adverse impact on sea turtles.
 “The State Department’s announcement proves that the Section 609 program continues to play a vital role in improving conservation for endangered sea turtles throughout the world,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “Through years of experience, the U.S. shrimp industry has developed and adopted proven commercial fishing methods that have dramatically reduced our impact on sea turtle populations.  The suspension of certifications for China and Venezuela is an essential first step in convincing these foreign industries to adopt similar technology.”
Read the Federal Register notice, “Annual Certification of Shrimp-Harvesting Nations,” here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/State.pdf
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s February 13, 2020 letter to the U.S. Department of State requesting that the agency re-evaluate its Section 609 certification regarding China’s wild-caught shrimp industry:  https://www.shrimpalliance.com/southern-shrimp-alliance-asks-state-department-to-rescind-chinas-section-609-certification/

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