In an effort to strengthen sea turtle conservation efforts, NOAA Fisheries published a final rule to require all skimmer trawl vessels 40 feet and greater in length to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets. A TED is a device that allows sea turtles to escape from trawl nets. The purpose of the rule is to aid in the protection and recovery of listed sea turtle populations by reducing incidental bycatch and mortality of sea turtles in the southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries.
WHEN RULE WILL TAKE EFFECT:
Skimmer trawl vessels 40 feet and greater in length that are rigged for fishing are required to install TEDs in their nets by April 1, 2021. For purposes of this rule, vessel length is the length specified on the vessel’s state vessel registration or U.S. Coast Guard vessel documentation required to be onboard the vessel while fishing.
NEW TED REQUIREMENTS AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
- Skimmer trawl vessels 40 feet and greater in length rigged for fishing will be required to install and use TEDs designed to exclude small turtles in their nets. Specifically, the space between the deflector bars of the new TEDs must not exceed 3 inches; escape openings must be oriented at the top of the net; and there are potential webbing restrictions on the escape opening flap depending on the type of TED grid and escape opening configuration. For purposes of this rule, vessel length is based on state fishery license or vessel registration information required to be onboard the vessel while fishing.
- NOAA Fisheries originally published a proposed rule in December 2016 that would have required all skimmer trawl, pusher-head trawl, and wing net vessels to use TEDs in their nets. In response to public comment and further deliberation, however, the final rule was revised.
- Additionally, NOAA Fisheries also amended the allowable tow time definition. The new definition requires all vessels operating under the allowable tow time limit (e.g., skimmer trawl vessels less than 40 feet in length, pusher-head trawl vessels, wing net vessels, live bait vessels, etc.) to remove and empty their catch on deck within the tow time limit (i.e., 55 or 75 minutes, depending on season). We believe the amended definition will improve the inspection of the net for potentially captured sea turtles and allow for their release unharmed.
- The Gear Monitoring Team based out of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center Pascagoula Lab’s Harvesting Systems Branch will be conducting numerous workshops and training sessions for skimmer trawl fishers. Information on these sessions, as well as additional information (final rule, FEIS, FAQs) on the new TED requirements, will be posted on our website at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/southeast/bycatch/turtle-excluder-device-regulations.
This bulletin serves as a Small Entity Compliance Guide, complying with section 212 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.