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Shrimpers Angry Over Possible Restrictions Due to Sea Turtle Deaths

By Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Jul 2011 11:58pm | comments
An angry crowd packed the NOAA hearing about possible changes in shrimping regulations because of sea turtle deaths.

A year ago this week, the Deepwater Horizon well was capped and oil stopped gushing into the Gulf. But the long-term impact on marine animals is still unknown.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the spike in sea turtles deaths has federal agencies and fisherman in a shouting match.

An angry crowd of more than a hundred packed the meeting in Biloxi Wednesday, held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Most in the crowd were fishermen, about half Vietnamese. The public hearing was to get input on possible changes to shrimping regulations, in order to reduce sea turtle deaths.  NOAA representative Michael Barnette reviewed events since the oil spill.

"...Mississippi, we do have oil coming along the beaches after that fact, but again, strandings remain low..." Barnette said.

NOAA is researching whether the spike in sea turtle deaths is partly caused by shrimp nets. To shrimpers like Chris Balius of St. Martin, that’s an accusation.

 "We’re not responsible for killing the sea turtles," Balius said. "They won’t admit to the fact that BP and the federal government was allowing them to spray Corexit on top of the oil is killing the turtles."

NOAA is considering several options, ranging from no changes in fishing regulations to shutting down some shrimping areas in the Gulf.  

Commercial fisherman Frank Parker of Biloxi wants to see more details on things like the spike in sea turtle deaths in April.

"Our seasons are closed in April, so if the seasons are closed, how are we killing the turtles? These are the questions that we want NOAA to answer before they start shoving all these new regulations, hinder our industry, we want the facts," Parker said.

NOAA presented facts at the meeting.  In 2010, 594 sea turtles washed up in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.  From January through June of this year, 398 turtles washed ashore.   

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An angry crowd packed the NOAA hearing about possible changes in shrimping regulations because of sea turtle deaths.


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