Each year, the state of Texas and the federal government close shrimp fishing from the middle of May for two months. The shrimp grow bigger and then sell for more money. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are spared during their peak nesting season on Texas beaches.
This year, because of the oil spill and fishery closures in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, hundreds more shrimp boats could rush to Texas waters from other states in July when the closure ends. It could be a death sentence for endangered sea turtles unless every boat is equipped with Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) that installed properly. In April, 25 juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles washed up dead in the Galveston, Texas, area in April when shrimping activity increased as it does each year. Law enforcement responded and on April 26, four of the ten shrimp boats boarded were found with TEDs not installed properly.
Increased law enforcement might prevent the injury and deaths of hundreds of sea turtles in Texas waters. Shrimpers who do not use TEDs correctly or disable them must not be allowed to fish in Texas waters. Both state and federal law enforcement officers as well as the Coast Guard must be present to board shrimp boats.
Yes, we feel sorry for shrimpers in Gulf states suffering from the effects of the oil spill, but that doesn’t give them the right to fish in Texas waters with TEDs that are not working right. The opening of the Texas shrimping season this year will be like none other and we’re not crying “Wolf.”