With the New Year upon us, the team at STRP is gearing up for another successful year of campaigning and advocacy. As an intern, my focus has been primarily on the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery and its relationship to endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. A major goal for 2012 will be to put pressure on the lawmakers in Louisiana to develop and present a new bill addressing sustainable fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and specifically, increased enforcement of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). In 1987 a federal law was passed mandating the use of TEDs by shrimpers. Unfortunately Louisiana has managed to avoid most TED enforcement by establishing it’s own set of contradictory state laws that are deadly to sea turtles.
In 2010, a bill was introduced that would have repealed the long-standing state laws prohibiting the use of state money to enforce the federal TED requirements. However, after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support, the bill was vetoed by Governor Jindal. This year, we hope to see another bill reintroduced and and then approved by the Governor. This is just one strategy to reduce sea turtle deaths where some shrimp trawlers are ignoring national sea turtle protection laws. Together with allies, STRP has challenged the management of the entire shrimp trawl fishery by the federal government in a lawsuit that is still pending, an action provoked by the record number of sea turtle carcasses found on Gulf shores last year.
During a recent visit home to New Orleans for the holidays, I had the opportunity to meet with the Director of the Louisiana Humane Society to discuss their involvement in and support of the initiative to change Louisiana’s out-dated statute on TED enforcement. In addition to the Humane Society of the United States, GreenPeace, EarthTrust, and Sea Turtle Conservancy have all joined forces with STRP to demand increased enforcement of federal laws and more responsible, sustainable fishing practices from the Gulf of Mexico shrimping fleet. A previous letter sent from a coalition of concerned scientists quite successfully garnered support for the cause; therefore, if you know of any organizations that may be interested in signing on to this cause, please let us know!
While 2011 was indeed a rough year for sea turtles, it also proved to be a year of successful and productive campaigning. In response to a gruesome assault on sea turtles by shrimpers in March and April we rallied our members through our action alerts and petitions to call for action, and as a result the on-water enforcement of TEDs increased 10-15 times and sea turtle deaths were virtually eliminated in several months. Check the graph below depicting how our combined actions, including e-mails, letters, and phone calls, saved the lives of sea turtles! Now, how can you help?
Take action today! Demand Louisiana’s Governor lead the Legislature and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to present a new sustainable seafood management bill this year that would require proper TED compliance and enforcement to ensure the safety the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. Take the time to make a phone call, write a letter or an e-mail, or even pay a personal visit to the individuals you voted in to office to ensure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities to protect our precious coastal resources. Click here for those Louisiana Legislature contacts!