Each year turtles get caught in fishing nets and subsequently drown because they get stuck underwater for over an hour. Turtles need air to breathe and without it they drown, just like most creatures. This has been happening for dozens of years since people began using large nets to fish. Tens of thousands of turtles die each year as a result, but thanks to new technology called “Turtle Excluder Devices,” turtles don’t have to continuously die this way.
Turtle Excluder Devices (abbreviated as TEDs), allow for escape hatches built into fishing nets so that big turtles can push them open and swim away while small fish and shrimp stay inside the net. By allowing for turtle escapes the mandatory useage of these nets could save thousands of turtles each year. While Turtle Excluder Devices are lifesavers not everyone wants to use them, as the change is costs money and resources. Yet they prevent turtles from dying!
Many groups, including Oceana, a nonprofit that fights for the conservation of ocean life and the health of the ocean, are trying to get the Turtle Excluder Device mandatory on all shrimp trawlers. If the new rule would come to be, all shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic would have to use Turtle Excluder Devices. This would save the lives of countless turtles, a population which has already received a recent major blow in the Gulf of Mexico in the form of the BP oil spill.
Shrimp trawling is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles and Turtle Excluder Devices would help the recovery of a population already catastrophically affected by the oil spill two years ago. All six of the sea turtle species that live in the waters surrounding the United States are threatened or endangered. A regulation would save their lives and give sea turtles a chance to recover. Although there are ongoing conservation efforts they are just not enough to help the populations that are endangered recover. Commercial fisheries, specifically those who target shrimp, are the main threat to this recovery, which can be quelled by the use of Turtle Excluder Devices. Not only that, but turtles are also killed by being crushed by dredges or hooked in long line fisheries. Again, a Turtle Excluder device could offset these deaths as well by making an effort to save at least some turtles. In the United States alone tens of thousands of turtles are caught each year.
Unless the National Marine Fisheries Services works with fisherman in complying with and developing new standards turtles will continue to be threatened. The current rules and exceptions currently in place are inconsistent and the mandating of Turtle Excluder Devices would be a noted improvement. Ongoing research and development, as well as increased observer coverage is required alongside Turtle Excluder Devices in order to ensure turtles are getting the protection they need. If the National Marine Fisheries Services do not install, enforce, and maintain consistent regulations turtles will continue to be captured and will continue to be at risk.
The backlash from the fishing industry against the new regulations can be combated by new rules and regulations put in place by the National Marine Fisheries Services. If they know that the new Turtle Excluder Devices have support they will surely also support such measures. Because not all fishermen are required to use the new technology turtles are dying everyday. To support the reduction of sea turtle mortality and the requirement of Turtle Excluder Devices on all shrimp trawlers sign this petition at Oceana. Turtles will get the protection they need as soon as possible!
Photo credit: pifsc.noaa.gov/qrb/2011_10/img/loggerhead_turtle_med.jpg