At loggerheads over international bycatch: Initial effects of a unilaterally imposed bycatch reduction policy

Jesse Senko, Lekelia Jenkins, S. Hoyt Peckham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Scopus citations


    The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is the primary law that codifies marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. The MSA was amended in 2006 with Section 610, an international provision that directs the Secretary of Commerce to unilaterally identify foreign nations engaged in the incidental capture (bycatch) of protected living marine resources (PLMRs) under specific conditions. In 2013 the United States identified Mexico for bycatch of a PLMR – the North Pacific loggerhead turtle – representing the first time a nation has been identified for bycatch under section 610. This paper evaluates the initial effects of the identification on loggerhead bycatch management efforts in Mexico and provides policy recommendations for improving the law and its implementation. In the wake of the unilateral identification, Mexico downplayed and denied the bycatch problem that their agencies had previously accepted and cancelled a bycatch research partnership between their federal fisheries science agency and U.S. researchers. Moreover, fishers invested in bycatch reduction and monitoring programs ceased to participate, jeopardizing their understanding of the problem and their co-development of bycatch solutions. However, the identification and subsequent consultation process ultimately resulted in Mexico implementing federal loggerhead bycatch regulations that are temporarily comparable with relevant U.S. measures. These regulations establish a temporary fisheries reserve (authorized for two years) that includes monitoring of bycatch, a loggerhead bycatch mortality cap, temporal and spatial restrictions on fishing gear and practices, and a closure of all finfish fisheries during the summer of 2016. As a result, turtle bycatch was likely substantially reduced in 2016, but at the cost of artisanal fishers' entire seasonal income. Policy recommendations are made, highlighting the need to: 1) better assess the socioeconomic, political, and environmental consequences associated with using the threat of trade sanctions to compel nations to reduce their bycatch; and 2) facilitate a more consistent consideration of bycatch data across nations such that the current policy does not create a disincentive for other nations to assess or report PLMR bycatch.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)200-209
    Number of pages10
    JournalMarine Policy
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


    • Bycatch
    • Environmental law
    • Environmental politics and policy
    • Loggerhead sea turtle
    • Magnuson-Stevens Act
    • Moratorium Protection Act

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Aquatic Science
    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
    • Law


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