Skimmer trawls for shrimping are not allowed by the state of Texas, so why should Texans care about a newly proposed set of rules by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Evelyn Merz, Conservation Chair of the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, explains it very well. Speaking for 22,000 Texas members, she points out that "It is ironic that the tremendous effort to increase the population of Kemp's ridley sea turtles via encouraging nesting at Padre Island National Seashore on the Texas Gulf Coast is being undercut by the actions of neighboring Gulf states."
The newly proposed regulations submitted in June for public comments by the National Marine Fisheries Service would require that skimmer, butterfly and pusher-head trawls have Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) installed on them to prevent drowning of thousands of sea turtles. Although TED use was mandated by the federal government over 20 years ago, some deadly loopholes have remained. Skimmers have been exempt from the original TED ruling and are widely used by Louisiana shrimpers as well as those in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina. Florida requires TEDs on skimmers. The new regulations would also put an end to "timed tows" which allowed shrimpers to watch a clock and check their nets after short periods of time to see if they had caught a turtle. This regulation was never enforceable and many sea turtles died as a result. The new regulations will remove this option.
A veteran of conservation campaigns, Merz mentioned other issues referring to opponents of the proposed rule who "may wish to blame the Deepwater Horizon blowout as the culprit for high sea turtle mortality." She concludes that "the evidence does not confirm this. The stranded turtles generally did not have external signs of oil exposure. Necropsy results for most indicated death due to drowning."
Thousands of members of the Lone Star Sierra Chapter, Houston Audubon, the Piney Woods Wildlife Society and Environment Texas are asking for stronger sea turtle protection supporting the strong stand taken by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and other national conservation organizations. When it comes to sea turtle conservation, don't leave Texas out!