Commercial fisherman honored at Sea Grant event for saving sea turtles

November 15, 2013

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute awarded life-time commercial fisher Eddie Toomer from Venice, Fla., with the Gladding Memorial Award for his lifetime commitment to sustainable fisheries management. The prestigious award was presented during the 66th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) Meeting in Corpus Christi. The event was co-sponsored by the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University and hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Toomer is most renowned for his important contributions to the design of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for shrimp trawlers. “TEDs maximize shrimp harvest while allowing endangered sea turtles to escape. Shrimpers’ use of TEDs has spared hundreds of thousands of endangered sea turtles around the world,” said Pamela Plotkin, Director of Texas Sea Grant and author of the book, Biology and Conservation of Ridley Sea Turtles.

“With his mom and dad and a dozen or so others, Toomer also is responsible for the 3 million-acre no trawling pink shrimp nursery area in the Gulf.”

“I feel fortunate to be a part of the history of the TED,” said Toomer. “Finding a successful design was achieved by joining the practical experience and creativity of fishers, with the design ideas and studies of scientists.”

Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, said, “Eddie Toomer has joined ranks with 13 other commercial fishermen from around the Gulf and Caribbean, who have also won the prestigious Gladding Memorial Award for their outstanding contributions to conservation and sustainable fisheries management. We at the Harte Institute share a vision of sustainable management of Gulf and Caribbean marine resources and recognize the value and importance of collaboration between scientists and fishermen.”

More than 400 scientists, marine managers, fishermen, students, conservation Non-governmental Organization (NGO) representatives, and seafood chefs from 35 countries and territories attended the GCFI meeting in Corpus Christi.

“This annual regional meeting is an outstanding opportunity for fishers and researchers to come together. It gives us the chance to exchange current information on the use and management of marine resources and to work together to solve some of the most important issues we face,” said Bob Glazer, executive director of GCFI.

“The Gladding award was developed to honor Peter Gladding, a commercial fishermen from the Florida Keys, who was instrumental in designing and promoting the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in the Florida Keys,” said Don DeMaria, who was awarded the first Gladding Award in 2007, and continues to support conservation by working with scientists and serving on advisory panels for regional Fisheries Management Councils.

Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Within the university, Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.