Tens of thousands of turtles are caught in fishing gear every year. Trapped underwater for more than an hour, many of these turtles die by drowning.
But there is an alternative. Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) provide an "escape hatch" for turtles caught in shrimp nets, but not all fishermen have been required to use them. Meanwhile, turtles in the Gulf are dying. All six sea turtle species in the U.S are threatened or endangered, and every loss counts.
But a new proposed regulation will require all shrimp trawlers in the Gulf and southeast Atlantic to use TEDs. This new rule will save lives -- if it goes through. Sign TODAY to tell the National Marine Fisheries Service that you support new regulations to protect turtles from shrimp nets.
Despite ongoing conservation efforts, sea turtles remain threatened and endangered in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the largest threats they face is being captured in commercial fisheries, specifically those targeting shrimp. Shrimp trawling is damaging to the environment and can capture an estimated tens of thousands of turtles each year in the U.S. alone. Not only do turtles face capture in trawl nets, but they can also be crushed by dredges or hooked in longline fisheries. Numerous other human-related activities such as oil drilling, energy exploration, shipping, coastal development, water pollution, recreational boating, and military readiness operations also threaten the continued existence of sea turtles. The National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) proposal to require Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in all shrimp trawling vessels will help save countless turtles each year and is a critical step toward conserving the fragile and important resources in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.
The existing rules to protect sea turtles aren't working. The number of sea turtles washing ashore dead has dramatically grown in recent years, and evidence suggests that many die from drowning in fishing gear. Certain shrimp trawlers have been exempted from using TEDs which act as escape hatches for turtles, allowing them to exit the fishing nets. These TEDs have been proven to reduce sea turtle mortality, and these new measures will be a vast improvement over the inconsistent rules and exceptions that are currently in place.
In addition to finalizing this new regulation, NMFS should continue to work toward improving turtle protections by increasing observer coverage and working cooperatively with fishermen to support ongoing research and development. Thousands of turtles can be saved each year, but only when fishermen comply with these proposed regulations. Therefore, NMFS must develop a robust plan for maintaining consistent and strong enforcement presence that ensures TEDs are properly installed and that capture remains low.
Turtles will continue to be at risk unless NMFS follows through with these strong proposed actions rather than caving to pressure from the fishing industry. These creatures should be treated as the threatened and endangered species that they are, and afforded the type of protection that will ensure their recovery. Please finalize the rule requiring TEDs in all shrimp trawl fisheries as soon as possible so sea turtles can exist and thrive into the future.
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