Turtle Excluder Device Training

Texas Sea Grant, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has launched a pilot program to promote turtle-safe, wild-caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp. The program will help reduce incidental capture of sea turtles, especially Northwest Atlantic loggerheads. This species is particularly vulnerable because the shrimp season in the Gulf of Mexico overlaps with its presence in these fishing grounds, but the risk also affects other sea turtle species, including greens, Kemp’s ridleys and hawksbills.

Vessel Inspection

Marine Fisheries Specialist Gary Graham and Cameron County Coastal and Marine Resources Agent Tony Reisinger are working with shrimpers at the dock or aboard their boats, helping them to correctly install and operate turtle excluder devices, or TEDs. They issue an inspection form to those in compliance with TED regulations. Consumers can look for this certification when buying shrimp at their local supermarket.

Certified vessels will be re-evaluated once a year to ensure they remain in compliance. Vessels not in compliance will be offered on-the-spot assistance to correct any deficiencies and will be re-examined as soon as possible after modifications are completed.

How TEDs Work

A TED uses a simple grid to deflect turtles toward an opening in the top of the trawl net while allowing smaller shrimp to pass through and be captured in the net. Current TED designs have been determined to be 97 percent effective in excluding turtles from shrimp trawls, and federal law requires TEDs on most shrimp trawlers operating in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic.

But TEDs are only effective at reducing incidental capture of sea turtles if made, installed, and operated correctly. Problems can arise from the construction of the net, angle and size of the escape opening, flotation devices, and flap construction. Graham and Reisinger will teach shrimp fishermen correct installation, operation and maintenance of TEDs. Sometimes they are able to correct problems that don’t necessarily represent a danger to sea turtles but can cost fishermen some of their catch.

Benefits of Certification

Several major shrimp buyers already request proof of compliance with TED regulations from their suppliers, and the certification is expected to provide shrimp fishermen with access to those markets. In addition, more consumers are demanding sustainable products, so the certification will not only help reduce bycatch of sea turtles, it will provide shrimp retailers with assurance they are buying a compliant product, offer shrimp fishermen access to new markets, and give consumers a tool for choosing sustainably harvested shrimp.