WASHINGTON — Today, Oceana applauds the Obama administration for releasing a proposed rule to require Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – metal grates inserted into shrimp nets that allow sea turtles and other ocean wildlife to escape – in U.S. skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls, which would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year. Right now, the federal government allows shrimp trawls to kill tens of thousands of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Less than half of the U.S. shrimp fleet is currently required to use TEDs; however, this proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats in the region currently exempted.
Oceana 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.
This proposed rule was released as a direct response to an Oceana 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.
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.
To learn more about Oceana’s work to protect sea turtles, please click here.
Oceana is represented in this litigation by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.