WASHINGTON- As the international sea turtle community gathers in New Orleans this week for the 34th Annual International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Oceana sent a letter today to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urging him to reverse a state law that leaves thousands of sea turtles unnecessarily vulnerable to drowning in shrimp trawls every year off the Louisiana coast.
Federal law requires most shrimp trawlers to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which create an opening in trawl nets to allow trapped sea turtles to escape. Louisiana is the only state that refuses to enforce this federal law, which is designed to protect threatened and endangered species. Louisiana is a major player in the Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery and likely has a significant impact on sea turtle mortality.
Oceana’s letter also comes after the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force voted in favor of reversing the state law and allowing officials to enforce the use of TEDs, partly to help improve the conservation rating of Louisiana shrimp. Louisiana is currently the only state that is “red-listed” on the popular Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide.
In March, Oceana released the report “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries,” which identified nine of the worst bycatch fisheries in the U.S. The Southeast Shrimp Trawl Fishery, which includes fishermen operating off the coast of Louisiana, was named as one of the most wasteful, throwing out almost two-thirds of what they catch and killing more than 50,000 sea turtles every year.
Excerpt from the letter:
“As the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, Oceana firmly believes that maintaining healthy oceans pays dividends for future generations and is important to the livelihoods of fishermen and the communities in which they live. Our concern is that Louisiana’s law prohibiting the enforcement of regulations requiring Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in shrimp trawls unnecessarily threatens sea turtles. This technology is required by federal regulations because it has been scientifically proven to reduce sea turtle deaths, does not reduce shrimp yield, and has even been shown to improve the quality of the catch.”
In the letter, Oceana offers to meet with Louisiana officials to offer scientific expertise verifying that TEDs have been proven effective at reducing sea turtle mortality by 97 percent, as well as to alleviate any concerns or issues state officials may have, in order to improve the fishery.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit http://www.oceana.org.