Florida and Georgia Senators support increased sea turtle protection.

Date: August, 2002
Contact: Gary Appelson
(352) 373-6441

For the past several years the Caribbean Conservation Corporation’s Caribbean Conservation Corporation and other conservation groups have been trying to convince the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to require more stringent regulations for the US shrimping fleet in order to better protect sea turtles. Recently Florida Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson have added their voices to this effort and have sent a letter to NMFS urging the agency to adopt and implement long-pending regulations to improve requirements for Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in shrimpers’ nets. Senators Graham and Nelson are long time supporters of sea turtle conservation efforts in Florida. The Senators from Georgia also signed the letter. It is great to see the four Senators from these two key states calling for improved protection of sea turtles.

If you would like to thank the Senators for their position, you can find the latest contact information and email links for them below. (Contact Info)

Almost yearly the numbers of sea turtle standings along the southeast Atlantic coast increase with the opening of shrimp trawling season. Researchers in Georgia and South Carolina have proven that the TEDs currently being used by the shrimping industry are not adequate to allow the largest and most mature loggerhead, green, and leatherback turtles to escape shrimp nets. The problem is the TED openings are too small. For the past several years the National Marine Fisheries Service has been developing new regulations that would require shrimping trawlers to equip their nets with TEDs that have larger escape hatches for sea turtles. However, rule making is dragging on far too long and as a result every year we see more mass strandings of marine turtles along our beaches. (
News Story) The shrimping industry, with congressional allies from Louisiana, has strongly opposed the new regulations. Federal regualtors are now hoping to have the new regulations written and in place by the 2003 shrimping season. The letter from the four Congressmen will help ensure the agency sticks to this timeline.

Washington, DC 20510

July 19, 2002

Dr. William Hogarth
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway, Room 14555
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Dear Administrator Hogarth:

We are concerned about the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS’s) failure to finalize its TED rule. Although changes to the TED regulations have been under consideration since April 2000, the rule has not been finalized. We respectfully request that you address this situation.

Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) have been required for use by U.S. shrimp fishermen since 1990. Since 1994, however, scientists have identified the need for escape openings larger than those mandated by the existing regulations. About 4,000 turtles, including leatherbacks, large loggerhead and green turtles, are still captured annually in the TEDs shrimp nets. Many of these turtles drown. As a result, tens of thousands of sea turtles in the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico have been lost in the last decade. In Florida, the majority of loggerheads found dead along the state’s coasts from 1992-2000 were too large to escape the TEDs now in use.

Further evidence of the need for new TED regulations was brought into focus this May when a large number of sea turtle deaths coincided with the opening of shrimp fishing in federal waters off the coast of Georgia. Within a two-week period, 94 dead sea turtles were found washed up on the state’s beaches, including nine egg-bearing females.

This stranding level was five times higher than average, forcing NMFS to impose its fourth emergency rule/closure (which are costly to the shrimp industry) since April of this year. If the final rule requiring shrimpers to install larger TEDs had been in place this tragedy could have been avoided.

Further, despite decades of intensive management on nesting beaches in Georgia, loggerhead nesting populations are not recovering. The state of Florida, which hosts the world’s second largest loggerhead nesting assemblage, as well as smaller populations of green and leatherback turtles, has dedicated enormous energy and financial support to protecting sea turtle habitat. The continuing delay in promulgating the new regulations undermines these conservation efforts.

There is an evident and pressing need to improve current regulations to increase sea turtle protection. Please expedite the process of finalizing the larger TED rule without any delay in implementation.

Most respectfully,

Senator Max Cleland       Senator Bob Graham

Senator Zell Miller       Senator Bill Nelson

Senator’s Contact Information

Sen. Max Cleland (D – GA)
461 Dirksen Senate Office Buidling
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3521

Sen. Bob Graham (D – FL)
524 Hart Senate Office Buidling
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3041

Sen. Zell Miller (D – GA)
257 Dirksen Senate Office Buidling
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-3643

Sen Bill Nelson (D – FL)
716 Hart Senate Office Buidling
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-5274