Congress is considering a rule change advocates say could save thousands of sea turtles every year.
Florida sea turtles turn up injured or dead in neighboring states because of the use of shrimp nets off the Gulf and south Atlantic coasts. Florida requires the use of Turtle Excluder Devices in all shrimp-fishing gear - but not all fishing boats.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has recommended a rule to require escape hatches for turtles in the nets of all shrimp-fishing boats.
TEDs could save thousands of sea turtles, proponents claim.
"Thousands and thousands of turtles have died because people have resisted using the technology, or have refused to use it.," said Marydele Donnelly, director of international policy for the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
The National Marine Fisheries Service oversees commercial fishing practices in U.S. waters.
Sierra Weaver, senior staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, explains why her group is concerned about this latest development.
"While the agency is moving forward, folks in Congress - who claim to be concerned about the economic impact - are trying to circumvent that process and cut it off before it even starts."
Opponents say mandating use of TEDs harms their ability to catch shrimp and other sea life.
Weaver said Florida fishermen already successfully use TEDs in shallow waters.
The House of Representatives passed a rider, attached to a larger appropriations bill, to take away funding to implement the new TED regulation the feds are recommending. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the coming weeks.
The public can comment on the proposal until July 9 at defenders.org.
- Florida News Connection