In response to requests made by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and marine resource agencies in other Gulf states, 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.
Shrimp trawlers fishing in inshore and offshore waters from the Florida/Alabama border, westward to the Louisiana/Texas border, and offshore a distance of 10 nautical miles are exempt from federal TED requirements through March 18, 2006. However, due to the reported decrease in storm-related debris in federal offshore waters, this authorization extends no further than 10 nautical miles seaward from the coast.
In lieu of TEDs, this authorization requires shrimp trawlers to restrict tow times to 75 minutes. 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 March 18, 2006, 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."
Debris associated with the hurricanes continues to impact both shrimp catch and TED performance and has damaged fishing gear as well. 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.
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