A lawsuit threatened by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) has brought action from the National Marine Fisheries Service to stop the killing of sea turtles across the Gulf of Mexico. Their Southeast Regional Office has announced it will reinitiate Section 7 consultation on shrimp trawling under the Endangered Species Act in both state and federal waters of the southeastern United States.
“Shrimp fishing continues to injure and kill thousands of sea turtles in the Gulf each year because many shrimpers refuse to utilize a simple piece of equipment called a Turtle Excluder Device that can allow turtles to escape their nets,” said Carole Allen, Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s Gulf of Mexico Director.
STRP filed a 60-day Intent to Sue Notice in July following reports of hundreds of dead sea turtles in Mississippi waters. Examinations of dead turtles showed few of them died from oil but instead from “forced submergence” in shrimp trawls. Others have been killed by sand dredging in Louisiana where the shrimping season reopened on August 16. Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are not required on shrimp trawls in their state waters threatening even more sea turtles. In addition, recent NOAA inspections of the east Texas shrimp fleet found problems with TED implementation.
Shrimp fishing is the major cause of human-induced sea turtle mortality according to scientists. Tens of thousands of sea turtles are caught each year in US waters in giant nets drug along the bottom resulting in serious injury and death.
Todd Steiner, Biologist and Executive Director of STRP, said today: “Shrimp fishing combined with the BP oil spill is a double whammy for sea turtles, especially the Kemp’s ridley turtle, that pushes them ever more close to extinction. We expect the government’s new biological opinion to issue hard caps on the number of turtles that can be caught in shrimp nets– and when that cap is reached, the fishing season must end to allow the species a chance to recover.”