Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 15, 2016

Contact:   Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190,

Fisheries Service Proposes Overdue Measures to Stop Sea Turtle Deaths

 Sea Turtles Get Second Chance to Swim Free of Shrimp Trawls

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— After more than four years of study, the National Marine Fisheries Service today proposed a rule to address sea turtle captures in skimmer trawls, nets used primarily in bays and estuaries that are currently exempted from requirements for turtle-excluder devices. The Fisheries Service previously proposed a rule in May 2012, finding the regulations necessary to prevent thousands of sea turtle deaths, but reneged after discovering that even with the devices small turtles could still get caught in the nets.

“Requiring turtle-excluder devices in all nets that interact with sea turtles is just common sense,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The proposed rule is long overdue and will prevent future tragic turtle deaths.”

Shrimp trawling has for many decades been the primary threat to sea turtle survival in the United States. The shrimp trawl fishery incidentally captures and kills thousands of threatened and endangered sea turtles each year. Turtle-excluder devices, or TEDs, prevent turtles from drowning in nets, but limited applicability and lax enforcement have resulted in thousands of sea turtle deaths annually.

Currently skimmer trawls can use tow-time restrictions instead of TEDs. Tow times limit the amount of time shrimpers can keep their trawls in the water. In May 2012 the Fisheries Service published a proposed rule that would have withdrawn tow-time restrictions and instead required that all shrimp trawls use TEDs. Though the agency had already conducted extensive TED testing in skimmer trawls, this summer observers aboard some vessels noted that TEDs were ineffective for some small sea turtles. Today’s proposed rule would require smaller spacing between the bars of the TEDs.

The proposed rule, published in May 2012, was the result of a settlement reached in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife. That lawsuit sought to address unprecedented high numbers of sea turtle strandings in 2011, when more than 3,500 of the increasingly rare animals turned up dead or injured in the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic Ocean.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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