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Conservation Groups Threaten to Sue Mississippi for Failure to Protect Sea Turtles from Shrimp Nets

By Rhonda Miller | Published 07 Jun 2011 12:18am | comments
Mark Stewart brings his shrimp catch in to the dock at Back Bay in Bilolxi.

Four conservation groups are threatening to sue Mississippi for failing to protect sea turtles from being killed by shrimp nets. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports state officials and shrimpers say they’re doing their part to protect turtles.

Buckets of ice and shrimp are unloaded on the dock at Back Bay in Biloxi. Mark Stewart is selling his catch. He’s heard about charges that shrimpers are killing sea turtles in their nets.

"And we are furious, furious, the fisherman are, that they’re trying to say we’re killing these turtles. Put the blame where it belongs, BP is killing these turtles," Stewart said.

The conservation groups aren’t letting BP off the hook and say the oil spill and dispersants are part of the problem.

BP has spent millions of dollars on clean-up and research on the Gulf Coast.

Chris Pincetich is a marine biologist with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, one of the groups involved in the potential lawsuit.

"We have significant evidence that sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico are caused by shrimp trawl nets," Pincetich said. "And the enforcement of federal regulations are lax and really poor."

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources spokesperson Lauren Thompson said the agency can’t comment directly on legal issues. But Thompson said the state consistently enforces shrimping regulations.

"And, of course, last year with more turtle sightings and strandings, our marine enforcement even stepped up their efforts further," Thompson said.

In first five months of this year, 332 dead sea turtles washed up in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana – of those, 218 were in Mississippi.

The conservation groups say if improvements in sea turtle protection aren’t made by August first, they’ll file a lawsuit. And if they do, they’ll ask for an injunction to have all shrimp trawling stopped while the lawsuit is being considered.

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Mark Stewart brings his shrimp catch in to the dock at Back Bay in Bilolxi.


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