Oceana: New Report About Benefits Of Turtle Excluder Devices On Southeast Shrimp Trawls

WASHINGTON – In a report released Tuesday, May 24, 2016, Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation, calls on the Obama administration to implement a “simple solution” to ensure domestic, wild-caught shrimp are more sustainably caught.

         Oceana reps report by requiring the use of improved Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – metal grates inserted into shrimp nets that allow sea turtles and other ocean wildlife to escape – the Obama administration has the opportunity to save thousands of sea turtles, reduce millions of pounds of wasted seafood and open new markets to U.S. shrimpers.

         While many shrimp boats in the Southeast have been required to use TEDs since the 1980s, about 2,400 skimmer trawls in the region are currently exempt, Oceans reps said. Altogether, Southeast shrimp trawls could be killing 50,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles annually. In 2013 alone, the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery discarded an estimated 242 million pounds of seafood and ocean wildlife – about 62 percent of its total catch. This wasted catch would equate to more than $350 million in value, if the fish were of marketable size, Oceana reports.

         “Protecting sea turtles and U.S. fishing interests do not have to be mutually exclusive,” said Lora Snyder, campaign director at Oceana. “Requiring TEDs in all shrimp trawls is a no-brainer – it will protect marine life, open new markets for shrimpers, boost nature-based tourism and leave more fish in the sea for other fishermen. This is an easy win-win for conservation and the Southeast fishing industry.”

         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 report states.

         According to Oceana, requiring the entire Southeast shrimp trawl fishery to use this new TED would:


• Allow 2,400 U.S. shrimp vessels to be removed from “red-lists” on seafood buying guides, potentially opening over 13,000 new retail markets to their products, such as Whole Foods.


• Reduce pressure on struggling commercial and recreational fisheries. Of the 242 million pounds of fish discarded by Gulf shrimp trawls in 2013, almost 90 million pounds were species valuable to other fishermen. This includes over 1.4 million pounds of red snapper ($5.7 million if of marketable size) and over 52 million pounds of Atlantic croaker ($311 million if of marketable size).


• Help ensure healthy sea turtle populations, improving the value of nature-based tourism. Sea turtle tourism attracts over 500,000 visitors to the coastal Southeast annually. In a two-month time period, turtle walks contributed about $250,000 to the local economy in just two counties in Florida.


         “It’s rare that an opportunity arises to have such an important impact with such a simple solution – just a change of 1 inch,” said Snyder. “Requiring the use of new TEDs in all trawls could save as much as 60 million pounds of wasted seafood as well as thousands of endangered and threatened sea turtles. The Obama administration has an opportunity to help Americans feel better about eating domestic, wild-caught shrimp, while also leaving a legacy of commitment to profitable, sustainable fishing.” 

         Oceana reps said they run science-based campaigns and seek to win policy victories that can restore ocean biodiversity and ensure that the oceans are abundant and can feed hundreds of millions of people. Oceana victories have already helped to create policies that could increase fish populations in its countries by as much as 40 percent and that have protected more than 1 million square miles of ocean, reps said.

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