USTR Announces USMCA Environment Consultations with Mexico

February 10, 2022

Request is the First Environment Consultations Under the Agreement

WASHINGTON – The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today announced that it is requesting Environment Consultations with the Government of Mexico under the Environment Chapter of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).  These consultations concern Mexico’s USMCA Environment Chapter obligations relating to the protection of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus), the prevention of illegal fishing, and trafficking of totoaba fish (Totoaba macdonaldi). 
“USTR is committed to protecting the environment and is requesting this consultation to ensure Mexico lives up to its USMCA environment commitments,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai. "We look forward to working with Mexico to address these issues.”
Today’s announcement follows careful analysis of available reporting and observations, in addition to engagement with other U.S. Government agencies, stakeholders, and the Government of Mexico on fishing activities in Mexico’s waters in the Upper Gulf of California.  The fate of the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, has drawn international attention, including by the international scientific community, and multilateral bodies such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, the International Whaling Commission, and the United Nations World Heritage Convention.
Article 24.29.2 of the USMCA (Environment Consultations) provides that a Party may request consultations with another Party regarding any matter arising under the Environment Chapter (Chapter 24).  While Mexico has adopted environmental laws designed to prevent illegal fishing in the Upper Gulf of California, to prevent trafficking of protected species such as the totoaba, and to protect and conserve the vaquita, available evidence raises concerns that Mexico may not be meeting a number of its USMCA environment commitments.   
The vaquita is a critically endangered species of porpoise endemic to the Upper Gulf of California in Mexico.  The most recent data indicate that at least 6 but likely fewer than 19 vaquita remain.  Even with such a small population, scientists maintain that the species continues to be biologically viable, if given the space to recover.  Incidental bycatch from prohibited gillnets, primarily set to catch shrimp and totoaba, is the primary cause of vaquita mortality.  CITES prohibits commercial trade in both the vaquita and totoaba.  While the vaquita is not traded, there is a high demand for the swim bladder of the totoaba, which is traded illicitly.
USTR will continue to work closely with Mexico, to ensure changes to strengthen Mexico’s fisheries enforcement in the Upper Gulf of California.
Click here to read the USMCA Environment Chapter.