National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments protect America’s most iconic natural and cultural marine resources. These areas are home to important habitats such as breeding and feeding grounds, coral reefs, kelp forests, and important artifacts.
“It is our job to enforce the rules and regulations designed to conserve these marine protected areas and the species that inhabit them,” said Manny Antonaras, Assistant Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division. “In the Southeast, we are particularly focused on protecting endangered sea turtles that live in and around marine sanctuaries and we work hand-in-hand with our partners to make sure that they are around for years to come.”
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement recently conducted a joint operation aimed at protecting sea turtles in and around the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This is a key protected area in the Southeast. The operation, TED TALK, brought together partners from NOAA’s Gear Monitoring Team and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The goal was to enhance our turtle excluder device inspections that protect sea turtles.
To kick off the operation, officers participated in a TED-related refresher training led by the Gear Monitoring Team at the newly reopened Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center. Then they conducted a series of patrols and offshore boardings focused on inspecting TEDs and ensuring compliance with federal and state fishing regulations. The 5-day operation targeted federal waters in the southern Gulf of Mexico, including the protected Tortugas Shrimp Sanctuary. Partners from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and staff from the Gear Monitoring Team assisted in the patrols and boardings.
Officers boarded many vessels during the operation, and most were in compliance with TED requirements. Others had minor violations that were resolved through compliance assistance. In a few cases, TED and fishing violations were more severe and formal investigations were opened.
Operations like TED TALK are critical to protecting and conserving our national marine sanctuaries and regulated sea turtle species. To report suspected violations of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, call NOAA’s Law Enforcement Hotline, available 24/7 at (800) 853-1964.