Mexican fish farm allowed to export totoaba meat

By Anthony Harrup

MEXICO CITY — A totaba fish farm in northwestern Mexico has been allowed to export its product under an international agreement to protect endangered species, in a move it says could help reduce illegal fishing of totoaba in the Gulf of California.

In a 9-5 vote, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES, on Thursday approved the registration of Earth Ocean Farms, a company aquaculture company that raises totoaba fish in La Paz, Baja California. On.

The totoaba, endemic to the upper Gulf of California about 800 km north of La Paz, is an endangered species threatened by illegal fishing of its swim bladder, considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, especially in China, where it is also banned.

“Totoaba bladders are traded illegally, but the farmed fish bladder will be destroyed and the products will be prevented from entering illegal trade,” CITES tweeted after the registration was approved. “The hope is that this will help reduce illegal totoaba fishing.”

The illegal capture of totoaba fish also affects the vaquita marina, a highly endangered species of porpoise that gets caught in the nets.

In February, the Office of the United States Trade Representative requested consultations with Mexico under the environmental chapter of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on the Protection of the Marina Vaquita and the Prevention of Illegal Fishing and totoaba traffic.

“The plight of the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, has drawn international attention,” the USTR said. “While Mexico has enacted environmental laws designed to prevent illegal fishing in the upper Gulf of California, to prevent the trafficking of protected species such as totoaba, and to protect and conserve the vaquita, the available evidence raises concerns that the Mexico is not meeting a number of its USMCA environmental commitments.”

The topic was among those discussed earlier this month when environmental officials from the two countries met in Mexico City.

The registration granted by CITES means that farmed totoaba meat could be sold overseas as well as in Mexico. It could also encourage others to farm the fish, said Pablo Konietzko, general manager of Earth Ocean Farms.

“As soon as there is a legal and traceable supply and prices that have nothing to do with the black market, there is a positive influence to discredit the illegal market or trafficking,” he said. “We do not market or sell the bladders.”

In addition to raising and processing totoaba for consumption, Earth Ocean Farms releases thousands of young fish into the wild. “The totoaba is not going to go extinct because it can be bred through aquaculture. But breeding the vaquita marina in captivity has not been possible,” Konietzko said.

Write to Anthony Harrup at [email protected]

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