Data source
Date of text
12 Oct 1998
Original language


Type of text
International court
Reference number
Court name
WTO Appelate Body
drift net fishing, endangered species, export, fisheries management, fishing method, import, international agreement, marine fishery, trade

The USA Government banned the import of shrimp and shrimp products from countries that did not comply with harvesting methods that did not adversely affect sea turtles. The above methods were basically limited to shrimp harvested by commercial trawl vessels using “turtle excluder devices” (TED) similar to those authorized in the USA, and also artisan harvesting of shrimp. A WTO Panel was established at the request of the plaintiff countries, which argued the illegitimacy of the announced import ban. The plaintiffs argued that the said ban was inconsistent with GATT’s Article XI (General Elimination on Quantitative Restrictions), the most-favored nation clause established in GATT Article I:1, and the prohibition on discriminatory administration of quantitative restrictions of GATT Article XIII:1. The USA argued that the measures were justified under GATT, particularly in concerning the conservation of exhaustible natural resources (Article XX (g)). In fact, all seven kinds of sea turtles had been defined as endangered species in CITES. According to the USA, sea turtles were shared global resources that deserved protective measures that escaped the USA national jurisdiction. The Panel held that although the WTO Agreement confirmed had an environmental concern, economic development through trade was its core focus. The Panel stated that the plaintiff countries were subject to unjustifiable discrimination, after considering that global challenges, such as the protection of a shared natural resource, demanded a multilateral response. Hence the defendant had to enter into corresponding international negotiations.