SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Oceana, the global ocean protection group, is demanding that Mexico and the U.S. fulfill their legal commitments under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to protect the oceans.

Oceana claims Mexico and the United States are “putting marine wildlife, fisheries, and fishers at risk.”

The group claims Mexico allows illegal fishing to a point that 40 percent of its seafood is considered illegal.

“Mexico has been the subject of several commercial embargoes over the past few years,” said Mariana Aziz, director of Oceana’s transparency campaign in Mexico. “Mexico is losing access to important international markets because we cannot demonstrate the legal origin of our seafood; this not only affects the national economy but also fishers who depend on these markets.” 

Currently, the United States has a commercial embargo on fish from the Upper Gulf of California.

And according to Oceana, since February, the U.S. has prohibited Mexican vessels from the Gulf of Mexico from entering its ports.

From April to October of last year, Mexico lost its certification to export shrimp for failing to meet standards to prevent sea turtle bycatch.

Oceana’s campaign director, Gib Brogan, says Mexico has a long way to go.

“That’s a shocking number, and that’s illegal, under-reported and unregulated fish,” Brogan said. “My colleagues in Mexico are working on this to improve the transparency of seafood and traceability of the seafood to insure the fish and seafood caught in Mexico is legal and honestly labeled.”

Brogan said the U.S. also has a lot of work to do.

“The United States is not effectively enforcing the Endangered Species Act, Environmental Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Brogan says the lack of enforcement and accountability is hurting species such as the North Atlantic right whale.

“They are a critically endangered species at risk with entanglement with fishing gear being struck by vessels. There are about 330 of them left on the planet,” said Brogan.” Oceana in California, Oregon and Washington are very concerned with similar threats for whales on the Pacific coast.”

Brogan wants the U.S. to be a leader in being able to push Mexico into complying with the ocean protection agreements in the USMCA.

“The U.S. government cannot require Mexico and Canada to uphold their environmental laws under the USMCA, while failing to enforce its own laws to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. It’s time to hold the United States accountable,” he said. 

Others are paying attention, too, including Mario Garcia.

“I asked the people and nobody catch nothing,” said Garcia, who’s been fishing off the Imperial Beach Pier, just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, for most of his life and has definitely seen fewer fish in past years.

“It’s bad, it’s bad,” he said.

It’s hard to say if Garcia’s bad days on the pier can be attributed to the USMCA.

But Brogan believes there’s a connection.

“The lack of enforcement is affecting fisheries,” he said.