Lilimar, Oceana & One More Generation Deliver Over 12,500 Letters from Kids Urging President Obama to Save Endangered Sea Turtles in US Waters
Requiring New Turtle Excluder Devices on All Shrimp Trawls Would Save Sea Turtles, Cut Seafood Waste and Open New Markets for Shrimpers
Press Release Date: June 16, 2016
Location: Washington, D.C.
Today, on World Sea Turtle Day, Lilimar, Oceana, One More Generation and regional children delivered more than 12,500 letters and drawings from kids across the country to the White House urging President Obama and Secretary Penny Pritzker to save threatened and endangered sea turtles in U.S. waters. The letters, which were highlighted at a meeting with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, represent children from all 50 states and call on President Obama to require a “simple solution” to protect sea turtles from shrimp trawls in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. By requiring the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – metal grates inserted into shrimp nets that allow sea turtles and other ocean wildlife to escape – the Obama administration has the opportunity to save thousands of sea turtles, reduce millions of pounds of wasted seafood and open new markets to U.S. shrimpers. PHOTOS
“We came to the White House today with a clear message for President Obama – Save sea turtles for kids,” said Lilimar, best known for her role in the hit Nickelodeon series “Bella and the Bulldogs.” “Sea turtles are being killed and there’s a simple action, a simple device, that can save them. When we grow up, shouldn’t we be able to enjoy sea turtles too?”
“Thousands of our smallest ocean advocates are speaking up for sea turtles,” said Lora Snyder, campaign director at Oceana. “These letters are filled with hopes and dreams. President Obama has an opportunity to ensure that these children have the chance to encounter sea turtles in the future.”
“When we started our nonprofit back in 2009, it was to inspire the youth of the world to stand up and let their voices be heard,” said Carter and Olivia Ries, founders of One More Generation. “Today we are proud to help deliver over 12,500 letters from youth all across the country who are realizing that they have a voice and are standing up to speak for the voiceless. President Obama, please hear our voices and save threatened and endangered sea turtles and reduce unwanted bycatch by mandating the use of TED’s.”
While many shrimp boats in the Southeast have been required to use TEDs since the 1980s, about 2,400 skimmer trawls in the region are currently exempt. Altogether, Southeast shrimp trawls are killing tens of thousands of endangered and threatened sea turtles annually. In 2013 alone, the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl fishery discarded an estimated 242 million pounds of seafood and ocean wildlife – about 62 percent of its total catch. This wasted catch would equate to more than $350 million in value, if the fish were of marketable size.
Over the last two years, the federal government has developed and tested a new, improved TED with smaller bar spacing (reduced from 4 to 3 inches) that could help save smaller sea turtles and reduce unwanted fish bycatch by an additional 25 percent.
Requiring the entire Southeast shrimp trawl fishery to use this new TED would:
- Allow 2,400 U.S. shrimp vessels to be removed from “red-lists” on seafood buying guides, potentially opening over 13,000 new retail markets to their products, such as Whole Foods.
- Reduce pressure on struggling commercial and recreational fisheries. Of the 242 million pounds of fish discarded by Gulf shrimp trawls in 2013, almost 90 million pounds were species valuable to other fishermen. This includes over 1.4 million pounds of red snapper ($5.7 million if of marketable size) and over 52 million pounds of Atlantic croaker ($311 million if of marketable size).
- Help ensure healthy sea turtle populations, improving the value of nature-based tourism. Sea turtle tourism attracts over 500,000 visitors to the coastal Southeast annually. In a two-month time period, turtle walks contributed about $250,000 to the local economy in just two counties in Florida.
To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org/TEDsforalltrawls.