Ok, so I have a thing for turtles. I’ve done this before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. On behalf of Oceana.org and sea turtles everywhere I am reposting the text of an e-mail I received today to sign a petition to save these amazing creatures from needless death and suffering in trawl nets. To wit:
All six species of sea turtles that swim in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act, but that doesn’t mean they are safe from fishermen. Believe it or not, many of our country’s trawl fisheries accidentally injure and kill sea turtles by entangling them in their massive nets.
Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent it. It’s called a Turtle Excluder Device – or TED – and it’s an “escape hatch” that allows a sea turtle to wiggle out of the trawl net, relatively unharmed. While some fisheries use TEDs, too many do not, and are not required to.
We need your help to convince the government to protect these ancient creatures by requiring TEDs in all trawl fisheries in the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that operate in areas with sea turtles.
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Let me back up – more than 15 years ago, the government took steps to protect sea turtles by requiring the use of TEDs in shrimp and summer flounder trawl fisheries. Studies show that properly used TEDs can lead to a 97 percent reduction in sea turtle net entrapment. Many trawl fisheries catch sea turtles but the shrimp and summer flounder trawl fisheries are the only ones with TED requirements.
The scale of this problem can be seen in the Mid-Atlantic – approximately 770 sea turtles are caught each year in the Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl fisheries leaving hundreds of turtles dead or severely injured, yet only one fishery in this region is required to use TEDs and those TEDs have proven to be too small.
Still not convinced? July 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the loggerhead sea turtle’s addition to the Endangered Species Act. But not only have loggerhead populations failed to recover in the last three decades, they continue to decline. Disturbingly, loggerhead nesting in Florida has declined by 50 percent during the past 10 years.
Sea turtles need better protection from trawl fisheries, and if the government is not going to require fishermen to pull their fishing gear when turtles are likely to be present, the answer is appropriately-sized TEDs along with adequate enforcement and observer coverage. We simply can’t sit and watch as these creatures, which have been around for millions of years, go extinct. Please take action today by telling the government to protect sea turtles from trawls.
For the oceans,
Marine Wildlife Scientist