TED Compliance Update

With the scheduled reopening of the Texas Closure on Friday, I want to remind our fishermen of the crucial need to ensure that your TEDs are in full compliance before leaving the dock.  Please take this message very seriously.  Like it or not, your fishery and livelihoods are at stake.  We all know this can be done.

Once again, contact the NMFS Gear Management Team if you need any assistance. They will work with you.  Contact: Dale Stevens robert.d.stevens@noaa.gov 228-549-1771.

Since my last message to you, we can be very proud of the tremendous progress our fishermen have made in correcting many compliance issues. The NMFS Gear Management Team and Office of Law Enforcement have worked with our industry to help us make this happen.  I am confident our fishery has restored or is very close to restoring the high level of compliance we’ve been known for— and on which our ability to continue fishing under the law depends.   We just need to make sure this continues after the Texas opening.

I want to also remind you of the profound consequences our entire fishery may face if there is a sudden spike in reports of sea turtle strandings along the Texas coast following the opening.  As you well know, since the BP Oil Spill, there has been an extreme level of attention given to the high numbers of standings reported along much of the Gulf coast.  The level and scope of beach coverage by participants in the turtle stranding network is now at an unprecedented level. This, in turn, generates still higher numbers of reported strandings.  We can anticipate that the stranding network’s coverage along the Texas coast will increase immediately after the opening.  This could translate to an increase in reported strandings even though they may have nothing to do with our fishery.

While there are many reasons why sea turtles die– some of which the government hasn’t figured out yet– the terrible injustice we face is that some organizations and maybe even some government officials appear committed to hang the sea turtle stranding issue solely around our necks.  It’s like they want the world to believe that the unusually high number of reported turtle strandings and the world’s worst oil spill were just an amazing coincidence.

As you know, the environmental NGO’s have already filed a petition to shut down our fishery and has notified NMFS of their intent to file suit to force more regulations–probably by the end of this month. You can be sure they are now hoping there will be an increase in the number of reported strandings in Texas to blame on our fishery and support their case.

As I said in my previous message, there is no more powerful defense against being unfairly and dishonestly accused of being the sole cause of turtle strandings than for our fishery to be in compliance, period. So, let’s make it happen.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance continues to pursue all means to both lead and defend our fishery on a multitude of fronts including TEDs compliance. Our industry can be very proud of how our folks have pulled together to address this issue in such a very serious and professional way.  This has not gone unnoticed by our government regulators.  I pray this will continue on Friday and that you all have a very safe and successful Texas opening.

John Williams

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