BILOXI — The Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources has asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct more studies before implementing a rule requiring turtle excluder devices on shrimp skimmer trawlers operating in state waters.
On June 6, NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Service held a hearing in D’Iberville on a proposed rule to require the turtle-saving devices on skimmer trawls in state waters. The devices are already required in federal waters.
NOAA officials said evidence shows that healthy turtles are drowning when they meet with shrimp trawlers without turtle excluder devices.
TEDs work by deflecting turtles out of the net while allowing shrimp to continue to the tail of the net.
The Mississippi Press reports Joe Jewell, assistant director of fisheries for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, told the commission that turtle strandings dropped after the state’s shrimp season opened.
Jewel said that before May 29 there were 124 dead turtle strandings and 43 live turtle strandings in Mississippi. From May 29 to now, there have been nine dead turtle strandings and 29 live turtle strandings, he said.
The turtles are mostly juvenile female Kemp’s Ridley turtles, and it is believed they are foraging in the state’s waters, he said.
“We see that most of the turtle landings are through April and May, and that is when fishing pressure, particularly commercial shrimping, is low,” he said.
Jewel said there is not a relationship to the opening of the shrimp season in Mississippi waters to turtle strandings.
Steve Bosarge, a commission member and commercial shrimper, said, “I believe just because we put TEDs in skimmer trawls it is not going to change the problem. Until we find the problem, put our finger on the problem, we haven’t solved it.”
Richard Gollott, a commission member representing seafood processors, said Mississippi has been proactive in educating commercial and recreational fishermen about turtles.
“Our shrimpers just don’t need any more regulations to help put them out of business,” Gollott said. “They are struggling now.”