Good news for Gulf of Mexico sea turtles

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Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawlers.

Change in Louisiana law will benefit turtles and shrimpers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gulf of Mexico sea turtles may soon be a little safer, following a vote by the Louisiana State Legislature to reverse a 1987 law that conflicted with federal rules requiring shrimp fishing boats to use Turtle Excluder Devices in fishing nets.

The TEDs are openings in the net that enable trapped sea turtles to escape before they drown.Louisiana was the only state that refused to enforce this federal law, even though the state’s vessels make up a significant portion of the Gulf Coast shrimp trawl fishery, which by some estimates kills up to 50,000 turtles per year.

The new bill passed today would allow Louisiana state officials to enforce the use of TEDs in shrimp trawls, as is done in the other Southeastern coastal states.

“This law is good for the oceans and good for the shrimp industry. We applaud Louisiana officials listening to their constituents and doing the right thing by passing this bill,” said Oceana fisheries campaign manager Gib Brogan.

The Louisiana shrimp industry supported the bill, with the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, made up of industry stakeholders, officially voting in favor of reversing the 1987 law, partly to help improve the conservation rating of their shrimp.

Louisiana was the only state “red-listed” on the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide, which analyzes the sustainability of fisheries. This rating advises consumers to avoid Louisiana wild shrimp. Because of their sustainability commitments, 13,000 restaurants and stores across the U.S refused to source shrimp caught in Louisiana.

Brogan said the change shows that Louisiana recognizes that protecting sea turtles and promoting responsibly managed fisheries are not mutually exclusive.

“TEDs have been proven to reduce sea turtle deaths by 97 percent when used correctly. The effective use of TEDs by shrimp fishermen is important to the future of the fishery and the continued survival of sea turtles,” he said.

According to Brogan, the new law will help level the playing field for Louisiana shrimp fishermen.

” It is likely that Louisiana shrimp will now be considered a ‘good alternative’ like the rest of the U.S. wild-caught Gulf shrimp.

Louisiana-caught shrimp would then have access to additional markets around the U.S. that are currently denied them, ultimately improving the industry’s bottom line. Overall, lifting the ban is a win-win for sea turtles and the Louisiana shrimp fishery.

To learn more about Oceana’s work protecting sea turtles, please click here.

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