NMFS has issued the following Fishery Bulletin to remind all skimmer trawl fishermen of the critical importance of compliance with tow-time restrictions for this fishery.
As in the past, failure to comply with these requirements will likely lead to the conclusion that sea turtle strandings are caused by the skimmer trawl fishery. In turn, this is likely to generate additional lawsuits to close or otherwise severely regulate this fishery. For more background, see SSA’s News Alert May 8, 2012, regarding settlement of the previous lawsuit involving skimmer trawls https://shrimpalliance.com/noaa-reaches-settlement-with-ngos-on-turtle-lawsuit-issues-proposed-regulations-for-skimmer-trawls/
To date, the NMFS has not found it necessary to require TEDs in skimmer trawls or to impose restrictions beyond the maximum tow times. Failure to comply will make it impossible for the agency to continue this practice. As always, SSA strongly urges all shrimp fishermen to comply with all federal regulations pertaining to the shrimp fishery including sea turtle bycatch and protection measures. The future of your fishery is in your hands.
For Spanish speakers, SSA has requested that this Fishery Bulletin be translated into Spanish and posted on the NMFS website. SSA will issue another notice as soon as this translation is available. (Para los hispanohablantes, la SSA ha solicitado que este Boletín de Pesca será traducido al español y publicado en el sitio web NMFS. SSA emitirá otro comunicado tan pronto como esta esté disponible.)
For Vietnamese speakers, SSA has requested that this Fishery Bulletin be translated into Vietnamese and posted on the NMFS website. SSA will issue another notice as soon as this translation is available. (Đối với người Việt Nam, SSA đã yêu cầu rằng điều này Bulletin Thuỷ sản được dịch ra tiếng Việt và được đăng trên trang web của NMFS. SSA sẽ ra thông báo ngay sau khi bản dịch này hiện có sẵn.)
NOAA Fisheries Reminds Shrimp Fishermen of Tow Time Restrictions
on Skimmer, Pusher-head, and Wing-Net Trawls in Lieu of TEDs
Fishermen using skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing-net trawls are required under 50 CFR 223.206(d)(2)(ii)(A) to continue to use tow time limits instead of TEDs to help prevent incidental catch of turtles. Tow time restrictions limit tow times to 55 minutes from April 1 through October 31, and 75 minutes from November 1 through March 31. Per the TED requirements at 50 CFR 223.206(d)(3)(i), tow time is measured from the time the codend enters the water until it is removed from the water. It is important that each entire net be examined for potentially captured sea turtles, particularly given the small size of sea turtles typically caught inshore. Raising the net to the surface of the water to determine the size of the catch, without removing the codend from the water, does not serve to end the tow under the regulations. For example, if a net is towed 35 minutes, then raised to the surface of the water to determine the size of the catch, without removing the codend from the water, and then lowered back down and towed for an additional 25 minutes before the codend is removed from the water and dumped on deck, the tow time would be 60 minutes.
The purpose of these tow time restrictions is to allow inshore shrimp vessels the opportunity to fish in waters where endangered and threatened sea turtles live while still protecting the sea turtles that live there. NOAA Fisheries recently concluded that requiring all skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets (butterfly trawls) to TEDs in their nets is not warranted at this time
(http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/endangered%20species/Shrimp%20Fishery/Fisheries%20Bulletin_withdraw.pdf). Although NOAA Fisheries is continuing to work on other solutions, including modifications to existing legal TEDs, at this time, limiting the amount of time a net is pulled underwater is currently the only known way to reduce the impacts that these types of shrimp trawls have on all sea turtles. Most sea turtles can survive for up to an hour or more underwater. If skimmer trawl, pusher-head, and wing-net vessels regularly exceed the tow time restrictions and kill incidentally captured sea turtles, the fishery may be subject to additional management measures such as closures until gear solutions are available.
For More Information: For more information, please refer to the following NOAA Fisheries Web site: