In response to debris problems associated with Hurricane Rita, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has granted shrimp trawlers a temporary 30-day exemption from federal Turtle Excluder Device (TED) requirements in certain state and federal waters off Louisiana and Texas.
Shrimp trawlers fishing in Louisiana and Texas waters from the Vermilion/Cameron Parish 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. 10, 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 will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 10, 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. Shrimp trawlers fishing in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana waters westward to the boundary of Vermilion and Cameron Parish at 92 degrees and 37 minutes west longitude and extending 50 nautical miles offshore are also exempt from federal TED requirements through Oct. 22, 2005.
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 this situation. If monitoring indicates that debris is no longer a problem, then this authorization will 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 LDWF 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 also 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.