FWC partners with NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard for sea turtle protection training

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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May 22, 2023

Suggested Post: NOAAFisheries, @MyFWC and US Coast Guard partner for #turtle protection training focused on TED inspections https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/39e0ba0 #Florida  

FWC partners with NOAA and U.S. Coast Guard for sea turtle protection training   

For the second consecutive year, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers participated in a joint operation organized and led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement. The operation aimed at protecting endangered sea turtles in and around the protected Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In addition to the FWC, federal and state partners from NOAA’s Gear Monitoring Team and the U.S. Coast Guard joined the 3-day operation. The goal was to enhance turtle excluder device inspections. 

TED inspections protect sea turtles and ensure commercial shrimp boats are fishing with allowable gear. TEDs permit turtles accidentally caught in nets to escape through a trap door. Before TEDs were required, an estimated 11,000 sea turtles died each year when they became trapped in shrimp nets and drowned. 

Turtle biologists from the NOAA Fisheries' Office of Protected Resources National Sea Turtle Program provided information about sea turtle life history and trends seen in local turtle populations. During the operation, 24 officers deployed among six vessels, patrolling in and around the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. A series of patrols and offshore boardings focused on inspecting TEDs and ensuring compliance with federal and state fishing regulations. The inspections focused on vessels fishing offshore in federal waters in the southern Gulf of Mexico. They also patrolled inside Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters as weather worsened. The commercial shrimpers, who were primarily targeting pink shrimp, hailed from ports ranging from Texas to Florida.  

 Officers boarded 11 vessels that took place while the fishermen were not fishing to reduce disruption to crew schedules. Upon boarding, the fishermen were accommodating and receptive to the boarding officers' questions and inspections. Several vessels had minor violations that were resolved on the spot through compliance assistance, such as trimming overhanging net flaps on the TEDs. In a few cases, TED and fishing violations were more severe and formal investigations were opened. Some of the documented violations included bent TED bars. If a TED bar is bent or set at an improper angle, it lowers the likelihood of a turtle escaping unharmed. 

Efforts such as this TED-focused operation are critical to protecting and conserving our national marine sanctuaries and protected sea turtle species. To report suspected fishery violations text 847411 (Tip411) with keyword “FWC” and information about the violation or call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (888-404-3922).

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