Turtle Excluder Devices (Development and use)

Photo credit: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the website)

The inserted picture shows a turtle escape from a fishing gear.

The accidental catch (by catch) of sea turtle in marine environments is a major threat to sea turtle populations worldwide. Often, turtles caught in fishing gear are injured and/or drowned.

According to published estimates by Oceana, about 50,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles are annually killed by Southeast shrimp trawls (USA). (South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters).

In the 1980s, the contribution of shrimp trawlers to sea turtle mortality was determined. Consequently, the Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) were developed throughout the 1980s and ‘90s for conserving sea turtles caught in the shrimp trawlers.  

A TED is a grid of metal bars which is fitted into the neck of a shrimp trawl net with an opening either at the top or the bottom mesh to enable a turtle caught in the net to escape. The small animals such as shrimp pass through the bars into the tail bag of the trawl net and are caught. When turtles and other large animals, such as sharks, and stingrays are captured in the trawl, they are stopped by the TED, strike the grid bars and are ejected through the opening.

The use of TED has been enforced in countries where shrimp trawling is commonly practiced. For example, a Public Law 101-162 in the USA requires the banning of the importation of commercially harvested shrimp unless the exporting country has been certified by the State Department as having a regulatory program comparable to that of the United States for reducing the incidental capture of sea turtles in shrimp trawls. TEDs have been required in the United States beginning in 1987. At present, around 40 countries are certified that they have comparable sea turtle bycatch rates to the United States.

The focus of TED development has been always to provide safe methods for turtles to escape almost as soon as they were caught in the net. Equally important was to preserve the shrimp catch; the target crop. The periodic development of TEDs has been based of the practice findings and emerging issues. For example, modified designs of TEDs targeted to accommodate small-sized sea turtles such as the Kemp’s ridley. Equally important, the reduction of the unwanted fish bycatch has been considered in the TED development.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Fisheries (NOAA) reported that TEDs were able to save up to 97% of sea turtles with minimal loss of shrimp. According to some official reports, the use of newly developed TED would lead remove shrimp trawlers from “red-lists” on seafood buying guides, and hence help the opening of new retail markets to their catch as well as help ensure healthy sea turtle populations, improving the value of nature-based tourism.


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