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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2012
3:43 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity

Teri Shore, SeaTurtles.org, (415) 663-8590 x 104; cell (707) 934-7081, tshore@tirn.net, www.seaturtles.org
Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190, jlopez@biologicaldiversity.org, www.biologicaldiversity.org
Carole Allen, Gulf Director, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, (281) 444-6204, carole@seaturtles.org
Jeff Dorson, Humane Society of Louisiana, (901) 268-4432, stopcruelty11@gmail.com, www.humanela.org

New Sea Turtle Protections in Shrimp Fleet Debated in Louisiana

Ocean Conservation Groups Support Turtle Excluder Devices in Skimmer-trawl Fleet

WASHINGTON - June 1 - WHAT: Federal fishery managers will hold public hearings on a new proposal to close a deadly loophole in shrimp fishery laws to protect sea turtles.

WHEN and WHERE:
• June 4, 6-8 p.m., Larose Regional Park and Civic Center, 307 East 5th Street, Larose, LA.
• June 5, 4-6 p.m., Belle Chasse Community Center, 8398 Highway 23, Belle Chasse, LA.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Conservation representatives in favor of the additional protections for sea turtles are available for interviews. Photos and B-roll available on request.

NEWS and FACTS: The National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to require turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in all shrimp boats that fish with skimmer trawls — gear used primarily in shallow water like Louisiana’s coastal waters, bays and estuaries. TEDs allow sea turtles, finfish and other marine life to escape shrimp nets. TEDs are required in all other types of shrimp trawl gear, but not yet in skimmer trawls. In Louisiana, 2,248 vessels use skimmer-trawl gear, the most of any state.

The Fisheries Service estimates that more than 28,000 sea turtles are captured each year in skimmer-trawl nets used in the U.S. shrimp fleet in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Southeast coast. Of these, about 1,000 endangered Kemp’s ridleys drown in the nets each year, according to the Service.

The new shrimp fishery regulations would apply in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina — the only states currently using TED-free skimmer-trawl gear. Florida already requires vessels employing this gear to use TEDs. Texas prohibits the gear completely. About 2,435 active vessels have been identified that use skimmer-trawl gear (2,248 in Louisiana, 62 in Mississippi, 60 in Alabama and 65 in North Carolina).

Louisiana is the only state that prohibits its fishery agents from enforcing federal requirements for use of TEDs in shrimp nets. Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill that would have reversed the 25-year-old law, and now Rep. Jeffrey Landry has added an anti-turtle rider to a federal appropriations bill to defund the new skimmer-trawl rule.

Currently, skimmer trawls can use tow-time restrictions instead of TEDs. Tow times limit the amount of time shrimpers can keep their trawls in the water, but evidence is mounting that enforcement is near-impossible. Even when these restrictions are followed, skimmers drown turtles. The proposed rule would abandon the tow time restrictions and require skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls and wing nets to use TEDs.

“Closing the deadly loophole in shrimping laws will prevent thousands of sea turtles from needless injury and drowning in shrimp nets,” said Teri Shore of SeaTurtles.org. “It’s a simple and effective way of protecting sea turtles from the skimmer trawl fleet. Most shrimpers have been using TEDs for decades.”

”We’re encouraged that the Fisheries Service has taken this step to protect sea turtles. It acknowledges the harm that skimmer trawls cause and provides a public process for implementing safeguards for sea turtles and other marine wildlife,” said Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

All six species of sea turtles in the United States remain at risk of extinction and are protected under the Endangered Species Act. While some populations are increasing, none have reached recovery goals to be delisted. Last year, an unprecedented 3,500 sea turtles turned up drowned or injured in the southeast Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Since only about 5 percent to 6 percent of dead sea turtles wash up on shore, the actual death toll is much higher. 

The proposed new regulations resulted from a lawsuit settlement under the Endangered Species Act between the National Marine Fisheries Service and conservation groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org), Sea Turtle Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife. The groups were represented by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.


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