(ANIMALS IN POLITICS) LOUISIANA — A  new house bill proposed in Louisiana will block a federal rule requiring that all shrimping boats be equipt with turtle excluder devices (TEDs), a trap door that allows turtles to escape from shrimp nets. Right now skimmer trawls and butterfly-type-fishing nets are not required to have TEDs, they just have to pull up their nets every hour to release turtles. This method is highly ineffective, as most of the turtle suffocate before the nets are pulled up. Read on for more information, and click the “Take Action” mouse to help stop Louisiana from blocking sea turtle protections. — Global Animal 
Turtles caught in Louisiana nets often suffocate before they can be released. Photo Credit: Carolyn Cole/LA Times

Sea Turtle Restoration Project

WASHINGTON — A coalition of environmental groups is working to persuade senators to kill language in a House bill that would block a proposed federal rule requiring turtle excluder devices, known as TEDs, for all shrimp trawls. 

Click to keep Louisiana from letting sea turtles die in fishing nets!

The devices, a trap door that allow turtles to escape from the shrimp nets, are already required on most vessels. But skimmer trawls and butterfly-type fishing nets, particularly off the Louisiana coast, have been allowed a non-TEDs option that calls for shrimpers to haul up their nets every hour or so to free the turtles, which can drown if they remain trapped.

But environmental groups said this method hasn’t been effective, as evidenced by thousands of dead turtles discovered in recent years, particularly in the Gulf off Louisiana.

Under a May 8 settlement with environmental groups who sued to protect turtles, the Marine Fishers Service proposed a final rule to require TEDs on the trawls and butterfly nets. The agency is now seeking public comment on the rule.
But Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, successfully attached a rider to a House spending bill this month that would block any federal funds from being used to enforce the proposed rule.

“Rep. Landry just decided to attach the rider without any input from anybody other than some members of the shrimping industry,” said Carole Allen, Gulf director for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.Allen said it’s clear that thousands of turtles are dying in shrimp nets, most of them in Louisiana, and action is needed.

Landry said the Fisheries Service is acting without scientific evidence to push a new TED requirement, and ignoring the benefits of the current partnership in which shrimpers in Louisiana raise their nets at regular intervals to let turtles escape.

“The recent rule-making negates this partnership and places the whims of environmentalists ahead of the scientific data or economic well-being of the fishermen in the coastal communities,” Landry said. “There is no scientific data that’s proving that the lack of the use of TEDs by shrimpers is causing any additional deaths in the turtle population.”

Landry’s amendment was approved by the GOP-led House in a 218-201 vote May 10.

But environmentalists say that “partnership” mentioned by Landry isn’t working.
They sued and eventually reached an agreement in which the Fisheries Service agreed to implement a new rule requiring TEDs for the skimmers and trawls.

“The number of dead turtles we saw in 2010 and 2011 was unprecedented, and (the legal) settlement will help make sure that type of catastrophe doesn’t happen again,” said Sierra Weaver, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “We look forward to the Fisheries Service fully complying with the Endangered Species Act and to Gulf waters becoming safer for these remarkable animals.”

Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, said in a statement that the proposed rule isn’t necessary and will place a big financial burden on shrimpers who will have to buy TEDs and then likely experience a reduced catch.

Allen said she heard that argument when the federal government began requiring TEDs on most large shrimping vessels in 1987. But most shrimpers adapted to the new rules without any major problems, she said.

Congress provided some protection by requiring foreign companies that export shrimp to the United States to use TEDs on their vessels.

Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for the U.S. Fisheries Service, said that the agency is trying to “strike a balance between conservation and commerce.”

“This (the new proposed rule) enables us to ensure a successful recovery of turtle populations while maintaining an economically viable shrimp industry,” Crabtree said.

More Sea Turtle Restoration Project: http://seaturtles.org/article.php?id=2308