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Local economy to get a tuna-up?

26 October 2008

Mazatlan -- where the beaches are lined with tuna

Since, with everyone’s income falling, and we’re all likely to be eating more tuna — and because I live in town where tuna  is economically important (both sports fishing and commercial fisheries) — and, if the wind is blowing the right way,  I wake up and smell the tuna from Mazatun cannery … this item from the Times of India is worth posting:

MEXICO CITY: The Mexican government says it has formally requested World Trade Organization consultations on US labeling restrictions that it says effectively exclude Mexican tuna from the US market.

Mexico claims its tuna complies with international standards on reducing the accidental capture of dolphins. But US rules prohibit Mexico from using the “dolphin-safe” label needed to sell the product in the United States.

Mexico’s Department said Friday in a statement that the restrictions have shut down a third of the Mexican tuna fleet.

US officials were not available to comment. If WTO talks between the two countries fail to resolve the dispute, Mexico can ask the world trade watchdog to set up a panel to rule on it.

Although the Mazatlan fleet uses “long lines” which meets the rather loose requirements for being “dolphin-safe”, U.S. food companies and fisheries owners fended off Mexican competition by claiming the Mazatlan catch was contaminated with other things.  Admittedly, at one time, our tuna canneries were involved in some side businesses:

In 1989, the Salinas Administration began privatizing the Mexican tuna industry, which had been largely created by the government during the oil boom of the early 1980’s. Several major fleets and canneries, it turns out, were purchased as joint ventures by the Tijuana Cartel, which dominates the drug smuggling into California, and the Cali Cartel. Castrillon, supplied with several Mexican passports, is a co-owner using the Mexican alias Jacinto Natalio Ruiloga Tovar.

Not only did the two notorious cartels own tuna fleets in Baja California, home base of the Tijuana Cartel, but they also bought the largest tuna operation in the Western Hemisphere, the ten-boat Pescadora Azteca de Mazatlan fleet. And they bought the giant PINSA tuna cannery in Mazatlan, which is supplied by the Pescadora Azteca fleet.

The tuna/cocaine pipeline was first exposed publicly in July 1995 when a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted one of Castrillon’s Panama-flagged tuna boats, the Nataly I, as it sailed north 780 miles west of Peru – far beyond the range of the anti-drug radar net. It was headed for a desert island 700 miles off the coast of Mexico, a regular rendezvous point for the Cali Cartel fleets to transfer multi-ton cocaine shipments to Mexican tunaboats, which then delivered the drugs to canneries in Ensenada, La Paz, Mazatlan, Manzanillo and other west coast ports.

That “pipeline” has been effectively shut down, but who knows.  I kinda wonder why I get jittery when my tuna stash runs low.

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