In response to ongoing debris problems associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized a temporary extension exempting shrimp trawlers from federal Turtle Excluder Device (TED) requirements in certain state and federal waters off Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Shrimp trawlers fishing in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas waters from the Florida-Alabama state line westward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria counties in Texas and extending 50 nautical miles offshore are now exempt from federal TED requirements through Nov. 23, 2005. In lieu of TEDs, this authorization requires shrimp trawlers to restrict tow times to 55 minutes until Oct. 31 and 75 minutes thereafter. Tow times are measured from the time trawl doors enter the water until they are retrieved from the water according to NMFS.
This exemption from federal TED requirements is valid through 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2005, unless otherwise extended by NMFS. Federal regulations provide for the use of limited tow times as an alternative to the use of TEDs if determined "that the presence of debris or other special environmental conditions in a particular area makes trawling with TED-equipped nets impracticable." The NMFS had earlier authorized a 30-day TED exemption affecting certain state and federal waters off Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina and a later exemption affecting remaining Louisiana and adjacent federal waters westward to the Matagorda and Brazoria County line in Texas following Hurricane Rita.
NMFS encourages shrimp trawlers in the affected areas to continue to use TEDs if possible. NMFS studies have shown that the problem of clogging by seagrass, algae, or by other debris is not unique to TED-equipped nets. When fishermen trawl in problem areas, they may experience clogging with or without TEDs. Shrimp trawlers who continue to use legal TEDs in the affected areas do not have to limit their tow times. However, shrimpers choosing to use tow-time limitations may not simply sew the TED flaps shut; they must remove the TEDs from the trawls.
NMFS will continue to monitor debris problems. If monitoring indicates that debris is no longer a problem, then this authorization may be shortened. If debris continues to be a problem after the dates above, this authorization may be extended. Fishermen should monitor NOAA weather radio for announcements or contact the NMFS Southeast Regional Office at 727-824-5312.
Louisiana shrimp fishermen and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries marine fisheries biologists have reported the presence of large amounts of storm related debris throughout the impacted area. This debris primarily consists not only of man-made debris, but matted grasses, rooted clumps of marsh vegetation, Roseau cane and branches uprooted and displaced by the storm. The debris has severely impacted both shrimp catch and TED performance and has damaged fishing gear as well.
EDITORS: For more information, contact Martin Bourgeois at 225-765-2401 firstname.lastname@example.org.