May 11, 2012 12:12 AM by Maddie Garrett

Requirements for Shrimpboat Nets Starts Federal Debate

A new regulation on shrimpboats not only has has shrimpers upset, it's now the center of a federal debate. The NOAA Federal Fisheries Agency said by next year, all shrimping trawls must have turtle excluder devices (TEDs), a trap-door that would protect sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets. The proposal would affect 2,400, most of those in Louisiana.

But many shrimpers, along with U.S. Congressman Jeff Landry, don't want the regulation passed.

Some boats, with nets that drag on the bottom, are already required to have the turtle excluder devices, but NOAA wants to require TED's on all boats, those with skimmer and butterfly nets.

Congressman Landry said not only would that be devastating for the shrimping industry, but it's not necessary in Louisiana's shallow waters.

Ted Melancon, a long-time shrimper, returned this Thursday with a modest catch. He said he would have done better if it weren't for the TED's.

"If you hit a crab trap, you're going to lose your shrimp, if a tree or something gets in there or a big old log it opens up and you're going to lose all your shrimp," said Melancon.

Melancon said the TED's are expensive and he can lose up to 40% of his catch because of them.

"If we wouldn't have them, there'd be no loss, everything would go into the bag," he said.

Congressman Landry said he doesn't want even more shrimpers to go through what Melancon does, so he's pushing an amendment that would counteract NOAA's regulation. Landry said it would hold NOAA accountable to a previous agreement made with the shrimping industry, that fishermen would pull up their nets after a certain amount of time to allow turtles to escape.

Still, the Federal Fisheries Agency said TEDs are necessary on all boats now.

"With a properly installed TED, Turtle Excluding Device, we estimate that around 95% of turtles are able to escape the net unharmed," said Dr. Roy Crabtree, Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Services in the Southeast Region.

But shrimpers and Landry question the number of sea turtles actually in danger, saying there's no proof of an increase in turtle deaths because of shrimp nets.

"No, don't see no turtles, that's a joke, don't see no turtles there," said Melancon.

Landry's amendment passed in the House Thursday with Republican and Democratic support. It now moves on to the Senate.

NOAA will also hold public meetings on the TED proposed regulation on June 4th in Larose and June 5th in Belle Chasse.



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