Federal Scientists Point to Shrimpers in Many Turtle Deaths
Emails reveal that shrimping vessels operating in the wake of the oil spill routinely failed to properly install “turtle excluder devices.”
05-26-2011 // Miles Grant (National Wildlife Federation)
Six times the annual average of sea turtles were stranded in the Gulf of Mexico last year and hundreds more have washed up this year. While the Gulf oil disaster was to blame for many of the deaths, just-released government documents obtained by the group Oceana are shedding new light on another cause:
More than a dozen e-mails, obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service by the advocacy group Oceana, provide extensive evidence that shrimping vessels operating in the wake of the oil spill routinely failed to properly install “turtle excluder devices,” aimed at keeping imperiled turtle species out of their gear. [...]
But the e-mails show that shrimpers across the Gulf of Mexico are routinely failing to place the devices in their nets or installing them improperly. One e-mail describing a series of inspections in Louisiana called “compliance to be poor at best.” At the port of Cameron, one out of nine vessels were found in compliance with the law; in Intracoastal City, La., two out of 17 met federal requirements; and in four other areas where boats were boarded, three out of 29 met the legal test.
The turtle excluder devices are metal grids that allow trapped turtles to push their way out. Shrimpers don't like them because the when the turtles crawl out, some of the catch can be lost.