As the newest intern for the Sea Turtle Restoration project, I am excited to be a part of the campaign to demand that NMFS enforces the proper use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries. A New Orleans native recently transplanted to the Bay Area, this issue hits particularly close to home for me.
Although the Gulf of Mexico region has been devastated repeatedly by man made disasters ranging from broken levees to oil inundation, we cannot use those tragedies as blinders to ignore the ongoing and flagrant violation of a 25 year old federal law mandating the use of TEDs by shrimp trawlers in the region. Having eaten as much fried shrimp growing up in bayou country as any other self-respecting y’at, I am growing increasingly aware of the unconscionable cost of this delicacy.
With no scientific data supporting the argument that TEDs significantly reduce the amount of shrimp caught by fishermen, there is no base to the argument against them. Though TEDs are a requirement on trawl nets, they are not yet required on the skimmer nets so often used in the Gulf of Mexico, creating yet another loophole for turtle bycatch to slip through.
Deeply rooted in a unique culture, desperately attempting to survive against the odds in a habitat where water represents more than recreation, but rather a way of life, Louisiana fishermen and law makers, along with the National Marine Fisheries Service overseeing regulation enforcement, need to realize that the only means of persistence is to adapt. If I achieve one goal with this internship, I hope that I manage to successfully convey the message to my beloved home state that progress necessitates change, and in this instance, everyone involved, including the commercial fishing industry, stands to benefit from proper use of TEDs.
If we allow this travesty to continue, it may reach a point of no return, a point where mutually cooperative policy no longer remains an option. We cannot allow ourselves to reach a point where the policies needed to protect the five species of endangered and threatened sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico necessitate drastic reductions in the fishing industry that sustains so much of the life and culture of my dearly beloved Cajun Country.
STRP has compiled a list of concerned scientists, fisheries managers, and industry representatives who support the call for action by NMFS. So come on Louisiana, work with me and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project to demand that our government agencies enforce the long standing federal law requiring the protection of our ancient, ailing sea turtles with no negative consequences for the shrimp fisheries of the Gulf Coast. C
Take action and contact Louisiana’s Governor, Bobby Jindal, and urge him to welcome environmental progress and to grasp the low hanging fruit in the conservation of our Gulf ecosystem, such as the use of TEDs.