- Issue: Summer 2016
Shrimp fishing is one of the biggest threats to the world’s sea turtles. Every year, tens of thousands of olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, green, and leatherback turtles get trapped—and drown—inside the trawl nets that shrimp boats drag along the sea floor. But a simple invention called the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) is helping them swim free.
Better with age
TEDs first appeared in the late 1970s, when the National Marine Fisheries Service created them to help shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico reduce the number of turtles getting caught in their nets. Through testing and technological advances, the tool has undergone numerous improvements in the decades since.
Tests by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found a 97% drop in sea turtle captures through the use of TEDs. Other studies have found that TEDs reduce overall bycatch by as much as 91%.
It is now mandatory for all commercial shrimping fleets in the US to use TEDs, but the devices haven’t yet become common in fleets at the global level.
Back on the beach
Fishing operations used to be a primary cause of death for Florida’s green turtles. But since the spread of TEDs throughout US shrimping fleets, the animal’s population has grown. There was a record number of green turtle nests on Florida beaches in 2015.
Better, faster, stronger
TEDs don’t just lower turtle mortality: They improve the quality of shrimp catch. For one thing, the devices prevent turtles and other bigger species from crushing the shrimp. And because the TEDs remove heavier species from the nets, shrimp boats get increased fuel efficiency.
WWF is working with a wide array of partners—from fishing communities to governments to financial institutions—to promote broader use of TEDs as a tool for sustainable and responsible fishing.
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