Louisiana is the only state that refuses to enforce 25-year-old federal sea turtle protection laws that require Turtle Excluder Devices in shrimp trawl nets

Baton Rouge – Twenty-six conservation organizations representing more than 14 million members have joined forces to demand that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal repeal a 25-year-old law that dooms sea turtles in his state’s waters. Louisiana is the only state that does not enforce federal requirements for use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in shrimp nets that allows sea turtles to escape before drowning.

SeaTurtles.org delivered a petition signed by major conservation and animal rights groups from Louisiana and across the United States seeking immediate action to reverse the prohibition on TEDs enforcement before the shrimp season opens and sea turtles start washing up dead on Gulf shores. The petition can be downloaded here.

“It’s time that Louisiana shows respect for the Endangered Species Act and sea turtle protections that Congress put in place,” said Carole Allen, Gulf Director of SeaTurtles.org. “The image of Louisiana as well as its marine resources and fishermen will benefit, as TEDs have proven their value and their effectiveness in all the other Gulf states over the decades.”

“It’s time our state joined the 21st century,” said Jeff Dorson, Director of the Humane Society of Louisiana. “I believe our law enforcement officers want to stop sea turtles from drowning in shrimp trawls but our old state law won’t let them. We need to change that.”

In 1987, Congress enacted a law requiring Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on shrimp trawls to prevent the drowning of sea turtles but Louisiana passed a law stopping its law enforcement agencies from boarding shrimp boats to check for TEDs. All sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Two years ago, the Louisiana legislature, working with the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, passed a bill to advance sustainability programs for both saltwater and freshwater fish resources and to repeal the prohibition of state enforcement of federal TED and fish excluder device laws. Possibly caught in the stresses of the BP oil spill, Governor Jindal vetoed the bill.

Governor Jindal’s letter from the conservation community urges the state of Louisiana “to demonstrate its commitment to protecting marine resources by taking legislative and policy actions to allow state enforcement of TEDs laws in the Louisiana shrimp trawl fleet and to implement programs to enhance sustainability of the shrimp fishery.” Louisiana’s legislative session begins March 12 when a bill to repeal the restrictions on law enforcement must be in place to be voted on.

Research has long shown that shrimp trawls without TEDs drown sea turtles, take protected fish and injure hundreds of species of juvenile fishes in their wetland nursery habitats, including juvenile red snapper. Studies have shown that TEDs are 97 percent effective at reducing the number of sea turtles drowned in shrimp trawl nets. Additionally, the shrimping fleet in the Gulf of Mexico has the highest bycatch ratio of any fishery in the United States, at 76 percent.