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Advocates say a Mexican startup is illegally selling a health drink made from an endangered fish – Magazine Creations

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Environmental watchdogs accused a Mexico-based startup Thursday of violating international trade laws by selling a health supplement made from endangered totoaba fish to several countries, including the U.S. and China.

Lawyers told The Associated Press they also have concerns that the company, The Blue Formula, could be selling fish caught illegally in the wild.

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The product, which the company describes as “nature’s best kept secret”, is a small sachet of powder containing collagen derived from fish and designed to be mixed into a drink.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which both Mexico and the US are signatories, any export for sale of totoaba fish is illegal unless it is bred in captivity with a specific permit. As a listed protected species, commercial import is also illegal under US trade law.

Environmental watchdog group Cetacean Action Treasury first reported the company in November. Then on Thursday, a coalition of environmental charities — the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Resources Defense Council and the Animal Welfare Institute — filed a written complaint with CITES.

Environmental advocates say the totoaba fishery endangers the vaquita porpoise and endangered species.

Blue Formula did not immediately respond to an AP request for comment.

The company claims on its website that it operates “100%” sustainably by sourcing fish from Cygnus Ocean, a licensed totoaba farm, and using a portion of its profits to release some farmed fish back into the wild.

However, Cygnus Ocean does not have a license to commercially export its farmed fish, according to environmental groups. The farm also did not immediately respond to an AP request for comment.

While the ecological impact of totoaba breeding in captivity is much smaller than wild fishing, advocates such as Alejandro Olivera, a representative of the Center for Biodiversity in Mexico, fear that the company and the farm could be used as a front.

“There is no good enforcement of totoaba traceability in Mexico,” Olivera said, “so it could easily be used to flush wild totoaba.”

Fishing with wild totoamba nets is illegal and one of the leading killers of the endangered porpoise, of which recent surveys suggest there may be fewer than a dozen left in the wild.

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Gillnetting is due to the exorbitant price for totoaba cysts in China, where they are sold as a delicacy for as much as gold. The Blue Formula supplement costs just under $100 for 200 grams.

In October, US Customs and Border Protection seized more than $1 million worth of totoaba cysts in Arizona, hidden in a shipment of frozen fish. About the same again was seized in Hong Kong the same month, in transit from Mexico to Thailand.

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