Court Approves Preliminary Ban on Imports from Mexican Fisheries Using Gillnetting
The U.S. Court of International Trade has approved a preliminary injunction preventing the importation of fish from Mexican commercial fisheries that use gillnets near where vaquitas are found. NRDC v. Ross, No. 18-0055 (Ct. Intl. Trade, entered July 26, 2018).
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed the lawsuit to protect the remaining population—about 15—of the vaquita, a type of small porpoise. “It is undisputed that the cause of the vaquita’s precipitous decline is its inadvertent tangling, strangulation, and drowning in gillnets, which are fishing nets hung in the water to entangle fish and shrimp,” the court noted. “The Government of Mexico, which regulates fishing practices in the Gulf of California, has banned the usage of gillnets in certain fisheries within the vaquita’s range, though illegal gillnet fishing continues. In other fisheries, gillnet fishing remains legal. If current levels of gillnet fishing in the vaquita’s habitat continue, the species will likely be extinct by 2021.”
The court found that NRDC is likely to succeed on the merits of its arguments, including that “the Mexican government has failed to effectively manage its northern Gulf fisheries that deploy gillnets.” The court noted, “The text of the Imports Provision imposes on the [U.S.] Government an immediate and continuous duty to ban fish caught with fishing gear that kills marine mammals, such as the vaquita, in excess of United States standards.” Further finding that a preliminary injunction is in the public interest, the court approved NRDC’s motion.