The Texas shrimping season usually reopens on July 15, a date that makes sea turtle conservationists nervous. When Texas shrimp are big enough, state biologists call for the season to reopen bringing shrimp boats from all over the Gulf to Texas waters. To counteract poor compliance and lack of proper Turtle Excluder Device (TED) training, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project suggests that Texas state and federal law enforcement stop and board all incoming shrimp boats at the Sabine River.
Information recently made available by the Freedom of Information Act reveals that TED compliance continues to be poor in Louisiana. Last August, a series of dockside TED inspections by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement along the Western Louisiana coastline showed many problems that are a serious threat to sea turtles.
“Boats were inspected in a number of ports with similar disappointing results,” said Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. “Near Intracoastal City, La., 17 vessels were checked and only two were found to be fully compliant. Problems were found with escape openings, flaps and angles for TEDs which are all critical for sea turtles to have a chance to escape trawls.”
“Checking TED compliance would work like truck weigh stations on Texas highways,” Allen added. “If shrimpers can’t meet the Endangered Species Act requirements to protect sea turtles in Texas waters, they shouldn’t be allowed to fish here.”
Similar problems with TED installations were found in Mississippi and Alabama waters where record numbers of dead sea turtles have been found this spring.
“Based on available data, Gulf shrimping is the leading killer of sea turtles in the U.S. and the leading killer of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle,” says marine biologist Dr. Chris Pincetich with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.