Work with the Skimmer Trawl Industry in the Northern Gulf

2014-05-04 13.09.24In 2014, in partnership with Louisiana Sea Grant, the Tow the Time Campaign was launched. This initiative 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) by distributing decals that can be used as visual reminders on vessels.

Shrimp is the largest commercial fishery in the Gulf of Mexico, with over 215 million pounds being landed in 2014 with a dockside value of $531.7 million. Otter trawls are the main gear type used across the Gulf of Mexico. However, in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, skimmer trawls, which were developed in the 1980s, are a common gear type used to harvest shrimp in shallower waters. Unlike otter trawls, which pull two to four nets behind the boat, skimmer trawls typically “push” two nets on either side. The nets are supported by a tubular metal frame on three sides that skims over the bottom on a weighted skid, holding the net along the bottom with or without a tickler chain.

generic sticker layoutThere has been concern over the impact of the shrimp trawl industry, both otter and skimmer, on populations of endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. All five species that can be found in the Gulf are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Rules and regulations are in place to minimize the likelihood of incidental catch of turtles in nets. Skimmer trawls are exempt from using TEDs when tow times are followed.

In 2016, to continue work with the skimmer trawl industry and to reduce sea turtle interactions, G.U.L.F. was awarded a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Coast Conservation Program. The grant supports industry engagement through distribution of tow time stickers and updates on regulations. In December of 2016, NOAA proposed a rule that would eliminate the tow time exemption for skimmer trawls and would require TEDs. Funds from the NFWF grant went toward organizing industry workshops to update fishermen on this regulation and collect comments to be submitted to NOAA.

At the completion of this grant, G.U.L.F. has:

•  Distributed 2,500 tow time stickers

•  Attended public comment meetings hosted by NOAA in Gretna, Larose, and Belle Chasse, LA, Biloxi, MS, and Bayou La Batre, AL.

•  Hosted four workshops with fishermen about the proposed rule in collaboration with NOAA and industry groups.

•  Collected comments at each workshop to submit to NOAA regarding the rule.

•  Presented updates on work to Sea Grant panel at Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and American Shrimp Processor’s Association.

G.U.L.F. will continue to monitor the progress of the rule and update the industry as needed.

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Sponsored and coordinated by Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission.
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NOAA Award #NA10NMF4770481.