Statement from the Interior Department on a Pelly Certification

Last edited 02/07/2024

Date: Thursday, May 26, 2023


WASHINGTON – Under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, when the Secretary of the Interior finds that “nationals of a foreign country . . . are engaging in trade or taking which diminishes the effectiveness of any international program for endangered or threatened species,” such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Secretary must certify that finding to the President.      

Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland notified Congress that she has issued a finding that Mexican nationals are violating CITES by engaging in trade or taking of totoaba and vaquita, pursuant to the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act. This finding is based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s review of the illegal taking of and commercial trade in endangered totoaba that threatens the survival of both species.  

The United States has consistently advocated for the protection of the CITES-listed totoaba and the vaquita porpoise, the world's most endangered marine mammal. Despite international protections, fewer than 10 vaquita remain.  

This action comes after the CITES Secretariat recommended the suspension of all commercial trade in specimens of CITES-listed species with Mexico on March 27, 2023. While the Secretariat has since withdrawn its recommendation based on Mexico’s submission of an updated compliance plan, the threats to totoaba and vaquita remain until a sound plan is implemented effectively.

Within 60 days of the Secretary’s certification, the President will notify Congress of any action taken pursuant to certification to help encourage conservation actions to prevent the extinction of the vaquita and continued decline of the totoaba.  


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