Shrimpers Should Use TEDs to Protect Endangered Sea Turtles

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In an effort to save thousands of endangered sea turtles, the Obama administration issued proposed rules that would require U.S. shrimping boats to use Turtle Excluder Devices or TEDs — metal grates inserted into their nets which allow the turtles to escape unharmed.

According to the Department of Commerce proposal, TEDs would save as many as 2,500 sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean each year. Less than half of the U.S. shrimp fleet is currently required to use TEDs; the proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats currently exempted.

The conservation agency Oceana applauded the proposed regulations. Campaign director Lora Snyder released the following statement in response to the newly proposed rule:

“Oceana commends the Obama administration for taking this historic step to protect sea turtles in U.S. waters, which has been decades in the making. With the simple solution of requiring shrimp boats in the Southeast to use TEDs, we would dramatically improve the survival and recovery prospects of sea turtle populations, as well as protect the livelihoods of thousands of American shrimp fishermen who lose markets and profits due to the ‘red-listing’ of their products.

“Currently, 13,000 restaurants and stores across the United States refuse to source shrimp that are red-listed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which analyzes the sustainability of seafood products. It is likely that by requiring TEDs in these vessels, this red-listing would be lifted, thereby opening new markets to U.S. shrimpers.

“Recent news stories have highlighted that imported shrimp can be tied to human trafficking and public health concerns. This rule will help make our domestic shrimp fishery more sustainable, allowing Americans to feel confident in choosing the better alternative of U.S. wild-caught shrimp. Today’s announcement is a win for sea turtles and a win for the American shrimp industry, bolstering the reputation of domestic-caught shrimp as a safe, legal and sustainable product.”

The public will have 60 days to review and comment on this proposal, and the federal government could publish a final rule next year.

Oceana says that the proposed rule was released as a direct response to its lawsuit filed last year alleging that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to 1) determine whether shrimp fishing in the Southeast region puts sea turtles at risk of extinction, 2) monitor the impact of shrimp fishing on sea turtles, and 3) set a limit on how many sea turtles can be caught and killed.

Under the [Endangered Species Act of 1973](Endangered Species Act of 1973), all sea turtles in U.S. waters are either endangered or threatened. Harassing, injuring or killing them is illegal.

The law defines endangered as “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” Any species “likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future” is considered threatened.

In May, Oceana released a new report calling on the Obama administration to implement a “simple solution” to ensure domestic, wild-caught shrimp are more sustainably caught. Over the last two years, the federal government has developed and tested a new, improved TED with smaller bar spacing (reduced from 4 to 3 inches) that could help save smaller sea turtles and reduce unwanted fish bycatch by an additional 25 percent. The new rule proposed today, however, does not implement this solution for U.S. shrimp vessels already required to use TEDs.

Following the report, on World Sea Turtle Day on June 16, Oceana, One More Generation and local children delivered more than 12,500 letters and drawings from kids across the country to the White House urging President Obama and Secretary Penny Pritzker to save threatened and endangered sea turtles in U.S. waters.

The new proposal would exclude vessels in Biscayne Bay in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which use only wing nets, or butterfly trawls, and operate by “sight fishing at the surface close to the vessel using small, light monofilament nets during the winter months,” the proposal states.

“We anticipate the incidental capture of sea turtles would be a rare event based on the time, location and operational parameters of the (Biscayne Bay) fishery,” the proposal states. “If a sea turtle was incidentally captured, it would be immediately obvious to the operator, and could be quickly released.”

Source: Sport Diver

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