WASHINGTON- Oceana, the largest conservation organization working solely to protect the world’s oceans, expressed disappointment that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) withdrew a proposed rule today that would have required Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on all skimmer trawl shrimp boats in the southeastern United States. TEDs, which allow sea turtles to escape from trawl nets, were expected to save approximately 2,000 sea turtles every year that drown after becoming entangled in fishing gear.
“NMFS has turned its back on sea turtles, a species they are supposed to protect,” said Oceana Northeast representative Gib Brogan. “Through their own analysis, it’s estimated that five sea turtles are killed every day in skimmer trawl fisheries. To blame the back-tracking of this proposal on the agency’s inability to enforce rules is outrageous.”
The rule withdrawal is based in part on NMFS’ assumption that it would not be able to fully implement and monitor the new requirements effectively. Now, instead of requiring TEDs or moving shrimp fishing away from areas known to have large numbers of turtles, the government is falling back on a 55-minute limit on the amount of time a net can be towed in hopes of minimizing turtle drowning deaths, a rule that has already proven to be ineffective and almost impossible to enforce.
“Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which requires NMFS to take action in the face of this clear problem,” Brogan said. “Oceana is exploring our options for ways to require immediate changes to decrease turtle mortality, while also looking at longer-term solutions.”
The rule to require TEDs in all skimmer trawl shrimp vessels was originally proposed in response to a large number of sea turtle deaths in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and 2011 as a result of drowning after being caught in fishing gear.
To learn more about Oceana’s work protecting sea turtles, please click here.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.