Charges Shed Light on Sea Cucumber Smuggling at US Border

5/20/2017 New York Times

san-ysidro-border-crossing-by-flickr-user-otzbergSAN DIEGO — Charges against a father-son partnership for allegedly smuggling more than $17 million worth of sea cucumbers to the United States and exporting them to Asia sheds light on a growing and lucrative illegal cross-border trade.

David Mayorquin and his father, Ramon Torres Mayorquin, are accused of a scheme to buy the illegally harvested animals from poachers in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, pay for them under fake names and underestimate their weight and value to inspectors at San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing, across from Tijuana, Mexico. From San Diego, they allegedly shipped the product to Asia, including China, where they are delicacies in Chinese dishes, prized for medicinal value and considered an aphrodisiac.

Border inspectors have spotted smuggled Mexican sea cucumbers for years, but the charges against the Mayorquins and their family business, Blessings Inc. of Tucson, Arizona, are striking for the multi-ton shipments. Authorities say they sell for $300 to $500 a kilogram in Asia, helping explain the draw for poachers and smugglers.

Read more…

Mexico enlists dolphins to help endangered tiny porpoise

5/15/2017 Reuters

dolphinMexico’s government has enlisted the help of three trained dolphins to locate in the wild their less fortunate cousin, the rare vaquita porpoise, in an effort to bring back from the brink of extinction a species with fewer than 40 specimens left.

Populations of the vaquita, a tiny snub-nosed porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California, have dropped sharply in recent years because of gillnet fishing for shrimp and totoaba, a popular delicacy in Asia, causing increased international concern and pressure on Mexico.

The three dolphins “will be released in September in the Gulf and they will help us locate where the vaquitas are,” Mexico’s environment minister, Rafael Pacchiano, said on Monday.

Experts will then help capture the vaquita, which Pacchiano said numbered fewer than 40 in the wild, and transport them to a marine sanctuary that Mexico’s government is planning to establish in the Sea of Cortez. Once inside a penned-off area to ward off natural predators, the experts will help them reproduce.

Read more…

Source of Clean Energy? Wind Turbines Are Spilling Oil in Mexico

5/15/2017 Insurance Journal

energy -wind_energyWind turbines were planted along a strip of Mexico’s southern coast to make the country’s power industry cleaner. Now they’re spilling oil.

In the town of Juchitan last month, a clean-up was under way around a generator owned by Electricite de France. Workers wearing goggles and masks were scrubbing off a copper-colored lubricant that dripped down from the turbine. They’d wrapped cloth around its base, to absorb further leakage, and stuffed contaminated soil and stones into plastic trash-bags.

Flor, who owns the land where the turbine is sited and rents it to EDF, said she arrived on the scene after being alerted by a neighbor. “The stench was terrible, like a sort of burned fuel or ammonia,” she said, asking not to be identified by her surname out of concern over reprisals. “The trees were glistening with oil.” Similar problems have been reported all along the Tehuantepec isthmus, one of the western hemisphere’s windiest places.

Read more…

Mexican President tweets DiCaprio in reply to plea over rare porpoise

5/12/2017 Reuters

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto wrote to Leonardo DiCaprio on Twitter on Thursday in a bid to reassure the Hollywood actor his government was taking steps to protect a rare porpoise in Mexican waters teetering on the brink of extinction.

Populations of the vaquita, a tiny snub-nosed porpoise that lives in the Gulf of California, have dropped sharply in recent years because of gillnet fishing for shrimp and totoaba, a popular delicacy in Asia, sparking increased international concern.

On Wednesday, DiCaprio called on his 17.5 million Twitter followers to get behind a World Wildlife Fund campaign online, which urged people to petition the Mexican president to “take strong action now” to save the vaquita.

On Thursday evening, Pena Nieto took to Twitter in English to defend his government’s efforts on behalf of the vaquita, addressing the actor directly with his first tweet.

Read more…

Only Captivity Will Save the Vaquita, Experts Say

4/27/2017 New York Times

Flip Nicklin/Minden Pictures

 

TIJUANA, Mexico — It was not the first time Robert L. Brownell Jr. had seen a dead vaquita, the rare and endangered porpoise that was lying on the stainless-steel necropsy table inside the Tijuana Zoo on Monday. But it might well be one of the last.

Mr. Brownell, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had in effect discovered the porpoise, finding the first full, dead specimen in 1966. The world’s smallest member of the cetacean grouping, which includes whales and dolphins, the vaquita was the most recent cetacean to be recognized by modern science.

Now it may well become the latest to go extinct.

A high-level, bilateral panel of Mexican and American scientists met this week and is expected to announce that it believes efforts to save the animal have, essentially, failed. That announcement would mean that the only hope for the vaquita’s recovery would be to capture the surviving animals, if any can be found. Some of the scientists involved think the surviving vaquitas now number as few as two or three, and the latest two vaquitas found dead could even be the last ones — though it could take years to confirm that.

Read more…

Mexico Can Seek Millions From U.S. In Dolphin-Safe Tuna Dispute, WTO Says

4/26/2017 NPR

tuna
Source: Mikko Koponen/Flickr

Mexico has long argued that U.S. labeling rules for dolphin-safe tuna unfairly restrict its access to the U.S. market. And in a decision Tuesday, the World Trade Organization agreed, saying Mexico may seek $163 million annually from the U.S. in retaliatory measures.

The controversial labeling rules, aimed at protecting dolphins from getting ensnared in fishing nets and killed, date back to 1990.

“The U.S. has long criticized Mexico’s fishing practices in Pacific waters, saying its use of nets and chasing dolphins to find large schools of lucrative yellow fin tuna greatly harms the mammals,” NPR’s Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City.

“The U.S. allows the dolphin-safe label on tuna cans that meet its no-kill standards,” Carrie adds. “Mexico says it has brought down dolphin deaths to international standards but has long been refused the label.”

Read more…

In Mexico, Fears a New Plant Will Kill Wastewater Farming

4/24/2017 New York Times

sewerTEPATEPEC, Mexico — For more than 100 years, most of what gets flushed down Mexico City’s toilets has resurfaced two hours to the north in the rivers and reservoirs of the rural Mezquital Valley. A massive new water treatment plant is about to change this.

But rather than welcoming the prospect of cleaner water, angry farmers are demanding the government honor an 1895 presidential decree granting them the right to the capital’s untreated sewage, which they see as fertilizer-rich, if foul, irrigation water.

It’s a standoff that pits public health concerns — not just for valley residents but for the Mexicans elsewhere who eat the crops — against fears that family farms will go under if they lose access to the raw sewage after the $530 million Atotonilco plant in Hidalgo state, billed as the largest of its kind in Latin America, goes online.

Read more…