As part of a new campaign launched today, Oceana and One More Generation have joined forces to call on the next generation of sea turtle lovers to write a letter or draw a picture to President Obama and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, urging the federal government to require Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on all shrimp trawls. The groups will collect these letters and deliver them to the President and the Secretary of Commerce on World Sea Turtle Day (June 16, 2016).
Currently, all five sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Atlantic (green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and loggerhead) are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Even after over 35 years of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), these species remain in danger of extinction or becoming endangered in the near future.
Why have sea turtle populations been unable to thrive?
Even though sea turtles are protected under the ESA, the government continues to allow thousands of these species to be captured and drown in shrimp trawl nets in the Southeast every year. These deaths have negative impacts on southeast marine ecosystems and community economies. Luckily, there is an easy solution: requiring TEDs on all trawls!
Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) are specialized metal grates inserted into nets that, when installed properly, allow captured sea turtles to escape 97 percent of the time. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has required TEDs on certain types of shrimp trawls, known as otter trawls, since the mid-1990s. However, many others, such as skimmer, butterfly and pusher-head trawls, are exempt. Additionally, new research by NOAA shows that reducing the space between a TED’s bars by just 1 inch can reduce fish bycatch by 25 percent, potentially saving more than 55 million pounds of seafood as well as allow smaller turtles to escape.
Requiring improved TEDs in all shrimp trawls could also benefit the American shrimp industry. Shrimp landed by Southeastern otter trawls and Florida skimmer trawls are currently listed as “Good Alternatives” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program because they have TED requirements in place. In contrast, shrimp landed by the other types of Southeast trawl vessels in every state but Florida are red-listed by Seafood Watch and unable to sell their shrimp in more than 13,000 retail outlets around the country that follow Seafood Watch recommendations.
If you agree that President Obama and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker should take action to help conserve sea turtles, please visit usa.oceana.org/turtles and download our materials, including a factsheet and letter and drawing template. Please send your letters no later than May 23, 2016 to either of the addresses listed below. Letters may also be scanned and emailed:
Attn: Save Sea Turtles
1350 Connecticut Ave. NW 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
One More Generation
Attn: Save Sea Turtles
P.O. Box 143627
Fayetteville GA 30214