WASHINGTON: Pakistan is trying to remove the misunderstandings that have led to the suspension of shrimp exports to the United States, the country’s ambassador to the US Masood Khan said after meeting a delegation of Pakistani businessmen.
“It’s a genuine concern. We will take it up with American authorities after collecting the required data from Karachi and Islamabad,” Ambassador Khan told Dawn after the meeting on Monday. “This door must be opened, and we would strive to do so.”
Sea food export is Pakistan’s 5th largest foreign exchange earner and shrimps are an important part of this trade. Pakistan earns about $400 million from shrimps, which are now mostly exported to China.
At the center of the dispute is a little, 3X2 feet box known as the Turtle Extruder Device (TED), which allows turtles to escape a fishing net. Like other countries around the globe, the US also considers turtles an endangered species, and in 2018, Washington suspended shrimp imports from Pakistan because local fishermen were not using this device.
“If the US restriction is removed, we can easily increase our shrimp exports by $150 million,” said Muslim S. Mohammedi, chairman of the Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association.
Last year, Pakistan exported about $380 million worth of shrimp and this year, it’s close to meeting the $400 target. The European Union also restricted shrimp imports from Pakistan in 2012 over sanitation concerns. Mr. Mohammedi said EU inspectors had concerns about storage and other facilities in Pakistan, not about the sea itself. But environment experts warn that sea pollution could also become a major issue if the situation does not improve.
The US concern, however, revolves around TED. A senior US State Department official Ervin Massinga visited Pakistan in 2019 but was not satisfied with what he saw, so the restriction remains. Apparently, Pakistani fishermen had installed the TED in their nets, but US inspectors concluded that the devices were only installed for the purposes of the inspection and were not in regular use.
“One TED box costs only about 6,000 rupees, so we have no problem installing them,” said Mr. Mohammedi. The device leaves a space in the net that allows turtles to crawl out even if netted. Explaining why it’s important to reopen the US market, Mr. Mohammed said the US was the world’s largest market for shrimps and US buyers pay better than others.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2022