CCC Supports New Turtle Excluder Device Rules Approved by NMFS to Protect Sea Turtles

Date: February 21, 2003
Contact: Gary Appelson
Phone: (325) 373-6441

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – The Caribbean Conservation Corporation today welcomed a long-overdue federal regulation that will dramatically reduce the number of endangered and threatened sea turtles that die each year after being caught in shrimp fishing nets. On February 21, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued new rules governing the design and implementation of Turtle Excluder Devises (TED) on shrimp trawlers in the waters of the United States. The new TEDs will be required in U.S. waters of the Atlantic south of the North Carolina/Virginia border and in the Gulf of Mexico west of 81E W. longitude. The rules will take effect in the Atlantic on April 15, 2003. Its implementation in the Gulf will be delayed until August of 2003. TED’s act as escape hatches, allowing sea turtles to escape from shrimp nets to avoid drowning.

According to the December 2002 biological opinion that supports the new rules and analyzes the effect of Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp fisheries, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) now estimates that tens of thousands more sea turtles are killed by the U.S. shrimp fleet than previously thought. NMFS estimates that increasing the size of TEDs will reduce annual mortalities of leatherback sea turtles from 2300 to 80. Mortalities of loggerheads will decrease from 62,000 to 4000. As previously designed, the escape hatches in TEDs were too small to provide protection for the larger and more mature sea turtles.

CCC has worked for more than two years with a coalition of environmental groups including the Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Humane Society, and Defenders of Wildlife, to convince NMFS to require the larger TED openings.

CCC’s Advocacy Coordinator, Gary Appelson, stated, “We are glad that NMFS responded to the overwhelming evidence and the support from the public for this new rule. The new size rules will allow the larger turtles to escape, including the mature females that are critical for recovering sea turtle populations.” David Godfrey, CCC’s Executive Director, welcomed the news, “Shrimp nets are the single largest identifiable source of sea turtle deaths in the United States. This is good news for sea turtles and for Florida, which hosts 90% of the nation’s sea turtle nesting.”

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The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website or call (800) 678-7853.