TED Case Studies
Shrimp and Sea Turtle
CASE NUMBER: 61
CASE MNEMONIC: SHRIMP
CASE NAME: Shrimp and Sea Turtle Protection
1. The Issue
The Earth Island Institute, a San Francisco-based
environmental organization, filed a suit on February 24, 1992,
to force the Departments of State and Commerce to comply with
the Federal law requiring the ban of shrimp imports from
countries who endanger sea turtles through shrimp fishing. The
law is being applied to countries with shrimp operations in the
Caribbean and the western central Atlantic. The Earth Island
Institute believes that the law should be extended to Pacific
and Indian Ocean nations such as Japan, Thailand, Indonesia,
India, Malaysia, and South Korea, as well as Mexico and Brazil.
Countries currently operating under the law only account for
ten percent of the world's annual shrimp harvest; the major
threats to the sea turtles are posed by nations not required to
abide by U.S. law.
Five species of sea turtles are protected under the 1973
Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): the
hawksbill, green, leatherback, Kemp's ridley and loggerhead
(see HAWKSBIL and GREEN cases). Large numbers of dead turtles
washing ashore on beaches cause great concern among
environmental groups. After studying the problem of shrimping
methods affecting sea turtles for ten years, the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concluded that "drowning in
shrimp trawls is considered the greatest threat [to the
turtles' survival. NMFS estimates that over 11,000 turtles
drown in [U.S.] trawl nets each year.
To combat this problem, the NMFS developed the turtle
excluder device, commonly known as the TED. TEDs are simply a
cage-like structure that fits in the neck of a trawl net,
preventing turtles and large fish from being caught. Since the
turtle cannot pass through the cage, it is forced upward
through an escape hatch. Studies by the NMFS on shrimp boats
found the device to be 97 percent effective, only reducing
shrimp catch by 2 percent. In order to promote conservation of
the turtles, Congress passed a Federal law in 1987 which was
later amended on December 1, 1992. The NMFS intensified the
regulations by requiring "that most shrimp[ers] operating in
offshore waters...use the devices immediately...and those using
smaller boats in offshore and in-shore [areas] will have to use
them within two years."
To complement these measures to protect sea turtles,
Congress passed Public Law 101-162 on November 21, 1989.
Section 609 requires the ban of shrimp from nations that do not
take precautionary measures to protect the sea turtles. The
Secretary of State must inform the countries of U.S. law (and
international law, the CITES treaty) protecting the turtles and
negotiate treaties encouraging similar shrimping practices.
The law provides that the country must "receive certification
that it has met specific conservation requirements" if it is to
continue exporting shrimp to the United States. On May 1,
1991 it became illegal to import shrimp from a country without
Certification requires proof that a country has adopted "a
regulatory program comparable to the US program or...that the
fishing environment in its waters does not pose a threat to sea
turtles." Implementation of TEDs is encouraged; by May, 1994
"the nations affected by this law must require the use of TEDs
on all shrimp vessels...or their exports of shrimp to the US
will be embargoed."
The Earth Island Institute filed a suit on February 24,
1992 against the Secretaries of State and Commerce. They
argued that "the defendants failed to certify...that all shrimp
harvesting nations have regulatory programs and incidental
taking rates of endangered sea turtles comparable to those in
the US." In specific, Earth Island claims that India,
Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, South Korea and
Brazil, who are the largest shrimp exporters to the United
States, are among the dozens of countries "whose fishing
fleets...kill more than 150,000 turtles a year." Earth
Island also argues that the State Department is required by law
to negotiate treaties with those countries and encourage the
use of TEDs for conservation. The effectiveness of the law is
undermined when only Caribbean and Atlantic countries must
abide by the regulation. Mexico, in response to Earth Island
Institute versus Baker, and fearing an embargo similar to that
of Mexican tuna exports to the United States, announced in May
of 1992 that it too would require protection of sea turtles
(see TUNA case).
3. Related Cases
(1): Trade Product = TURTLE
(2): Bio-geography = OCEAN
(3): Environmental Problem = Species Loss Sea [SPLS]
4. Draft Author: Jenny Jones
B. LEGAL Clusters
5. Discourse and Status: DISagreement and COMPlete
The sea turtle protection case is a disagreement between
the Earth Island Institute and the U.S. Government over whether
a federal law can be expanded to include shrimp imports from
outside the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean area.
6. Forum and Scope: CITES and MULTIlateral
The forum of the sea turtle case fundamentally applies to
the CITES treaty, which provides the basis for sea turtle
protection. However, the U.S. law (P.L.102.162) specifically
mentions bilateral or multilateral agreements between the
United States and the exporting nations.
7. Decision Breadth: 116 (CITES signatories)
8. Legal Standing: TREATY
C. GEOGRAPHIC Clusters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : North America [NAMER]
b. Geographic Site : CARIBbean
c. Geographic Impact : USA
The geographic domain of the sea turtle protection case
has global dimensions, extending to any of the 65 to 80 nations
which export shrimp to the United States. The United States
would ban imports from those nations not conforming to U.S.
standards, thereby closing the U.S. market until certification
10. Sub-National Factors: NO
11. Type of Habitat: OCEAN
D. TRADE Clusters
12. Type of Measure: Import Ban [IMBAN]
The measure bans the import of shrimp caught without TEDs.
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related : YES TURTLE
b. Indirectly Related : YES SHRIMP
c. Not Related : NO
d. Process Related : YES Species Loss Sea
15. Trade Product Identification: SHRIMP
The category includes raw shrimp as well as processed
products such as shrimp cocktail.
16. Economic Data
The overall U.S. fishing industry is enormous, as are U.S.
imports of sea products. In parts of the United States off the
Gulf of Mexico, many communities are heavily dependent on
shrimping for incomes. Shrimp and many sea animals are in
short supply in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. waters, such
as in New England.
17. Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness: BAN
A favorable decision implying the application of U.S.
restrictions on all shrimp imports into the United States would
imply a 100 percent ban. However, there are still countries
who do not export to the United States and who do not
necessarily intend to use TEDs.
18. Industry Sector: FOOD
19. Exporter and Importer: MANY and USA
The actual case involves shrimp exporters to the United
States which includes suppliers from the Americas and Asia.
E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Sea [SPLS]
Many sea turtles are faced with extinction and shrimp
fishing kills many every year.
21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species
Name: Sea Turtles (Hawksbill, Green,
Leatherback, Kemp's Ridley and
22. Resource Impact and Effect: HIGH and PRODuct
If U.S. law requires all exporting nations to use TEDs or
some other conservation method, the impact on saving the
turtles will be high. This is due to the number of countries
from whom the United States imports shrimp (65-80).
23. Urgency of Problem: HIGH and about 60 years
The loggerhead turtle is listed as threatened, meaning it
is "likely to become endangered in the forseeable future." The
other four species are listed as endangered, which implies it
is "judged to be in imminent danger of extinction."
24. Substitutes: LIKE products
In the same way that pollock has been fashioned (with
chemicals) into a substitute that tastes similar to lobster
called surimi, use of other fish products with flavorings has
been suggested as a substitute for shrimp. However, even this
change has its problems. The success of surimi, especially in
Japan, has not lead to a depletion of pollock stocks in the
Northern Pacific. Shrimp farming is also a potential
alternative source to meet consumer demand, but it can also
harm the environment (see MANGROVE case).
VI. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
26. Trans-Border: NO
27. Rights: NO
28. Relevant Literature
Bell, Nancy. "House OKs Protection of Species (Even Turtles)."
BioScience 38 (March, 1988): 162.
Bishop, Katherine. "Lawsuit Seeks Ban on Shrimp Imports."
The New York Times (February 25, 1992): A13.
"Environmental Group Sues Government Over a Failure to Ban
Certain Shrimp Imports." International Trade
Reporter (BNA, March 4, 1992).
Hinman, Ken. "The Real Cost of Shrimp on Your Plate."
Sea Frontiers 38 (February, 1992): 14-19.
Kenworthy, Tom. "US Strengthens Sea Turtle Protections." The
Washington Post (December 2, 1992): A6.
Rudloe, Jack and Rudloe, Anne. "Shrimpers and Lawmakers
Collide Over a Move to Save the Sea Turtles."
Smithsonian 20 (December, 1989): 44-55.
"Rules Protect Turtles From Shrimp Trawlers." National
Wildlife 25 (October/November 1987): 30-31.
Scott, David Clark. "Stung By US Tuna Ban, Mexico Protects
Turtles." The Christian Science Monitor (May 14,
Stern, Amy. "Endangered Species Bill Passed: Senate Votes for
Shrimpers Over Sea Turtles." Congressional Quarterly
Weekly Report 46 (July 30, 1988): 2113.
"Stricter Rules Urged to Save Sea Turtles." The Washington
Post (April 22, 1992): A16.
"Turtles Versus Shrimps." The Economist 312 (September 2,
Tutwiler, Margaret D. "Sea Turtle Conservation in Commercial
Fisheries." US Department of State Dispatch 2 (May
6, 1991): 338.
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