G.U.L.F. Program Will Reduce Impacts to Sea Turtles Through Shrimp Industry Engagement
Audubon Nature Institute has received nearly $52, 000 to work with the skimmer shrimp fishery of the Northern Gulf on sea turtle conservation. Awarded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the grant will fund work to reduce sea turtle capture by skimmer trawls though shrimp industry engagement. Audubon received one of 18 NFWF Gulf Conservation Grants awarded to programs working to enhance coastal habitats, bolster fish and wildlife populations and strengthen resilience along the Gulf of Mexico.
The NWFW Gulf Conservation Grants Program (GCCGP) will support Audubon’s sustainable seafood program, Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) to increase sea turtle protectio by expanding the ‘Tow the Time’ education campaign for shrimp fishermen. The Tow the Time Campaign focuses on educating fishermen about current tow time limits (55 minutes from April 1 to October 30 and 75 minutes from November 1 to March 31). The GCCGP builds on existing alliances and looks to build new partnerships, with major funding provided by the Shell Marine Habitat Program, Southern Company’s Power of Flight Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other sources.
“This is another great example of Audubon’s commitment to local conservation and working to protect endangered species, ” said Ron Forman, President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute. “The focus of this grant compliments the excellent work currently being performed by Audubon’s Coastal Wildlife Network, which to date has rescued and rehabilitated more than 200 endangered sea turtles from our local waters.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, concerns arose over drastically declining sea turtle populations in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. One of the reasons identified for sea turtle decline was mortality associated with shrimp trawls. To address these interactions, NOAA implemented new regulations for the shrimp fishery. Changes in the industry included turtle excluder devices (TEDs), which are installed in nets to allow endangered sea turtles to escape while shrimpers are fishing, and tow time restrictions for smaller, inshore nets such as skimmers to reduce the potential for interactions. Since then, sea turtle mortality has significantly decreased and sea turtle populations are showing signs of recovery. Continued concerns over the five species of sea turtles in the Gulf necessitate increased awareness of these regulations to optimize the benefits of these regulations.
“G.U.L.F. has been working with the skimmer trawl shrimp fishery in the northern Gulf of Mexico for the last several years, ” said Ashford Rosenberg, G.U.LF. Outreach Manager. “Funds from NFWF’s Gulf Coast Conservation Program will go toward expanding our work with fishermen by providing them with “Tow the Time” decals, which serve as visual reminders of current regulations for skimmer trawls that help limit interactions with sea turtles. This grant will also allow us to expand our work with the industry, ensuring we can inform them about current regulations and potential future regulations.”
The grants will also support industry workshops that will educate fishermen on current and upcoming proposed regulations, the logistics and benefits of turtle excluder devices (TEDs), and the importance of carrying observers on their vessels.
“Gulf restoration work is reaching new levels of conservation success, benefiting both wildlife and local communities, ” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “We are excited to build on these achievements with this latest round of Gulf grants.”
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