SSA Welcomes Enforcement of Turtle Excluder Device Laws

Today, NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation assessed civil penalties to the owners and operators of eighteen shrimp trawlers for allegedly altering or not having turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on their vessels. The Southern Shrimp Alliance applauds the enforcement of laws designed to protect sea turtles.

“Deliberately altering or refusing to use TEDs is completely unacceptable behavior.  Shrimpers that violate such laws put a black mark on the industry’s long record of compliance with turtle excluder device regulations. The Southern Shrimp Alliance supports NOAA in efforts to educate fishermen on TEDs requirements and welcomes enforcement efforts that deter non-compliance,” stated John Williams, executive director for the Southern Shrimp Alliance.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance launched a campaign in recent months in cooperation with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement directed at restoring full industry compliance with crucial laws regarding the use of turtle excluder devices in fishing nets.  The goal of the campaign, directed at shrimp fishermen throughout the Gulf and South Atlantic region, is to restore TEDs compliance to previous levels of ninety-nine percent. Failure to comply with TEDs regulations can lead to additional regulations. As a result of this cooperative campaign, compliance has increased rapidly and sharply.

Since the start of the shrimp season in mid-April and late October, more than 444 shrimping vessels have been inspected, most occurring at-sea versus dockside.  Some vessels were inspected more than once.  Eighty-four percent (371) of the vessels were found to be in compliance.  NOAA personnel helped many other shrimpers comply after finding minor violations.  These outreach efforts resulted in fishermen inviting NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement for courtesy checks to ensure TEDs were constructed correctly after adjustments were made.

“A solid, sustained enforcement presence, along with consistency of TED regulation checks among the various state and federal agencies, is the most effective deterrence to non-compliance,” said Williams. “ NOAA’s goal is not to just write tickets. Like us, their goal is to achieve compliance and protect turtles.”

Recent strandings of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that began prior to the start of the shrimp season has brought more attention to TEDs compliance.  However, NOAA has investigated the role of the shrimp industry in causing strandings and found there was little or no shrimp fishing activity during times of increased turtle strandings.

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