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Turtle Excluder Devices for Shallow Water Shrimpers Opposed by Fishery Leaders

By Rhonda Miller | Published 20 Jun 2012 06:14pm | comments
Turtle escaping from a net equipped with a Turtle Excluder Device, called a TED. Photo credit: NOAA

So far this year, 344 sea turtles have washed up along the Gulf Coast. Now the federal government wants shrimpers who work in shallow water to install sea turtle protection devices. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, fishery experts in Mississippi say the devices are a burden on shrimpers who aren’t responsible for killing sea turtles.

At a meeting of the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources earlier this week, board member and commercial fisherman Steve Bosarge said science should come before new regulations.

"Even though the shrimp industry interacts with turtles, we’re not the leading cause of these strandings. What really needs to happen is there needs to be more investigation into what’s causing these deaths. Is this a natural occurrence? What’s the problem?"

The commission approved a resolution asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to do a study of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico before imposing new regulations on shrimpers.

NOAA  is proposing that Turtle Excluder Devices, called TEDs, be required for shrimp boats that trawl in shallow water.

At a public hearing in D’Iberville earlier this month, NOAA Fisheries biologist Michael Barnette said the regulation would affect about 60 shrimpers in Mississippi.

"Well, the agency is pursing these regulations in order to make sure sea turtles are not being jeopardized by the inshore shrimp fisheries. We know that TEDs work in the offshore fishery. We know that it will work for the skimmer trawl fishery."

But Mississippi Department of Marine Resources spokesman Joe Jewell said shrimpers can’t be blamed for sea turtle deaths.

"The vast majority of the strandings in Mississippi, there were 205 strandings so far to date, the vast majority of those, about 82 percent of them, occurred before the shrimp season opened. And after the shrimp season about 18 percent occurred, and those were hook and line interactions, not shrimping interactions."

Those who oppose requiring TEDs say the weight can increase the cost of fuel and some of the shrimp may be lost. 

NOAA is accepting public comment on the proposed regulations through July 9.

Images

Turtle escaping from a net equipped with a Turtle Excluder Device, called a TED. Photo credit: NOAA


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