Bycatch and Discards – Endangered Species – AL Shrimp

Protected, Threatened, and Endangered Species

In 2014, a Biological Opinion was completed for the Southeastern U.S. shrimp fishery. The following endangered species were found to interact with the shrimp fishery, however, based on the current management measures and Species Recovery Plans, the authors of the Biological Opinion authorized the continued operation of the shrimp fleet (NOAA Fisheries 2014).

Sea turtles

There are five species of sea tu19719926722_baa650af10_ortles that are found in the Gulf of Mexico: loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretomoochelus imbricate), and leatherback (Dermochelyz coriacea). All five species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA; NOAA – Office of Protected Resources). There is a high possibility of sea turtle interaction with shrimp trawls across the Gulf. Species more common to interact with commercial fisheries are Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and green sea turtles (Finkbeiner et al. 2011). Due to concerns over sea turtle mortality in shrimp nets, regulations were passed in 1987 requiring otter trawls to contain TEDs (NOAA-SEFSC). Several changes were made in the legislation regarding TED design to further increase escapement rates of sea turtles. The last modification was in 2003, which was an increase in opening size to allow for escape of larger turtles. Finkbeiner et al. (2011) determined that due to a decrease in effort and the use of TEDs, turtle interactions have decreased by 60% and mortalities have been reduced by 90%.

Skimmer trawls must either use TEDs or must adhere to tow time limits of 55 minutes from April 1 to October 21 and 75 minutes from November 1 until March 31 (50 CFR §622.52). In 2012,  observer coverage was added for the inshore skimmer trawl fishery in the northern Gulf of Mexico due to increased sea turtle stranding reports, and coverage continued until 2013 (2015 – Annual determination to implement observer coverage). ADCNR actively enforces tow time requirements.

Smalltooth sawfish

Smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) are elasmobranchs, which is a group of fishes that includes sharks, skates, and rays. They occur in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean and are most commonly found off the southern tip of Florida (Florida Museum of Natural History, NOAA – OPR). They are listed as endangered and bycatch in various fisheries is listed as the main threat and the reason for decline of the species. Previous documentation of landings as incidental catch in the shrimp fishery were reported in the 1940s through the 1980s in Louisiana and Texas; however, there has been minimal documentation of recent landings and informal interviews by port agents indicate that recent interactions are rare (Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan – 2010 Review). The Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan estimates for one smalltooth sawfish taken in the shrimp trawl fishery per year. It is possible that the implementation of TEDs and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in the shrimp fishery allows for smalltooth sawfish escape should interactions with shrimp trawls occur.

Gulf sturgeon

sturgeongulfA400Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) is an anadromous fish species moving between fresh and saltwater habits seasonally. During warmer months, they can be found in coastal rivers from Louisiana to Florida. During cooler months, they are in estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA OPR – Gulf Sturgeon). The main threats to Gulf sturgeon have been overfishing and habitat degradation (NOAA OPR – Gulf Sturgeon). Bycatch in shrimp trawls does occur, though infrequently, but the use of BRDs and TEDs has likely reduced Gulf sturgeon bycatch (Gulf Sturgeon Recovery Plan – 2009 Review).

Marine mammals

The Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery is currently listed as a Category II fishery on the List of Fisheries. This determination was based on potential interactions with bottlenose dolphins. Category II designation requires that each fishery participant be registered with the Office of Protected Resources (OPR) and carry an authorization certificate. Typically, registration with the Marine Mammal Authorization Program is combined with state and federal permitting systems and all fishermen receiving permits are registered with OPR automatically. The Category II designation also requires fishermen to carry an observer onboard if requested, and must comply with any take reduction plans in place. There is currently no take reduction plan in the Gulf of Mexico for bottlenose dolphins. Fishermen are also required to report all incidental injuries and mortalities of marine mammals to OPR (NOAA OPR-List of Fisheries).


Previous: Bycatch Overview                                                                                 Next: Finfish Bycatch

MS shrimp

Return to AL Shrimp

Download the Audubon Gulf Seafood Guide mobile app:
Click here for the app tutorial on YouTube.
Sponsored and coordinated by Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
Authorized by the five Gulf state marine resource management agencies.
NOAA Award #NA10NMF4770481.