Sea Turtle Bycatch Reduction in Trawl Fisheries
NOAA Fisheries is gathering information from the public, fishing industry, and other stakeholder groups to inform any future measures for reducing bycatch in trawl fisheries.
NOAA Fisheries has been evaluating, researching, and addressing bycatch of sea turtles in trawl gear used in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean since the late 1980s, through:
- developing bycatch estimates
- studying sea turtle ecology and fishery interactions
- regulating certain fisheries (shrimp, summer flounder) to reduce sea turtle bycatch
- discussing mitigation options with the fishing industry and others
- researching gear and operational measures to reduce the severity of interactions that do occur
Sea turtle interactions documented by the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program most commonly occur from Massachusetts south. Seventy-two percent of observed fishery interactions from 2000-2019 were on trips where croaker (36%), longfin squid (19%), or summer flounder (17%) was the top landed species by hail weight. While turtles can be captured in bottom trawls wherever their occurrence overlaps, we have focused research on these fisheries given their high level of interactions. Over the last decade, we have explored and tested several research ideas generated at the 2007 and 2010 trawl workshops with the fishing industry, scientists, and other members of the public.
We are currently completing the final catch retention research on these fishing gears and planning construction and installation workshops with net manufacturers. While we are not at the proposed rule stage, we are gathering early information from the public, fishing industry, and other stakeholder groups to inform any future measures. We want to hear from you.
What Are We Considering?
Given the results of previous research, we are considering:
- Requiring TEDs with a large escape opening in trawls that target Atlantic croaker, weakfish, and longfin squid to reduce injury and mortality resulting from accidental capture in these fisheries
- Moving the current northern boundary of the TED requirements in the summer flounder fishery (i.e., the Summer Flounder Fishery-Sea Turtle Protection Area) to a point farther north to more comprehensively address capture in this fishery
- Amending the TED requirements for the summer flounder fishery to require a larger escape opening to allow the release of larger hard-shelled and leatherback sea turtles
- Adding an option allowing documented limited tow durations, if feasible and enforceable, in lieu of TEDs in these fisheries to provide flexibility to the fisheries
In addition to the Atlantic croaker, longfin squid, and summer flounder fisheries, we are considering measures in the weakfish fishery. Weakfish is harvested with the same type of trawl gear and at the same times and in the same areas as Atlantic croaker, often by the same vessels. Due to these similarities, we are considering the croaker and weakfish fisheries together for these bycatch reduction purposes.
Potential TED Options By Fishery
To see specific management options under consideration for your fishery, visit the fishery specific page below. These pages serve for informational purposes, and the options included are not currently being proposed.
What Information Is Helpful?
We are seeking input on the potential measures and welcome all feedback. The following questions include the type of information that would be helpful to shape potential management measures. If you provide feedback, please specify the fishery or fisheries to which your response applies.
|Should we consider any other mitigation measures (e.g., other TED designs, time/area management) at this time?|
|What temporal and geographic scope is appropriate? Other sea turtle/fishery conservation measures in the Greater Atlantic Region (e.g., scallop dredges) occur from May 1 to November 30 west of 71° W longitude.|
|Should we consider limited tow durations in the Atlantic croaker/weakfish, longfin squid, and summer flounder fisheries, a subset of these fisheries, or not at all?|
How should we define the Atlantic croaker/weakfish, summer flounder, and longfin squid fisheries? Fisheries may be defined in a variety of ways including by geographic area, gear, and mesh size; target species; or permitted vessels, among others. Are the current definitions appropriate or are there other definitions that should be considered? Current definitions used in these fisheries include:
|Do you foresee any operational issues with the TEDs under consideration in your fishery?|
|Are there any considerations to indicate that the weakfish fishery should not be considered in conjunction with the Atlantic croaker fishery?|
If data loggers are required in a fishery, they can also collect environmental data (e.g., bottom temperature) that could be accessed by fishermen at sea. Are there environmental parameters that would be informative to fishing operations?
|If you had an option to use limited tow durations (likely limited to approximately 1 hour), use a TED, or fish in a different area, which option would you choose? Please indicate the fishery or fisheries you participate in. With regards to fishing in a different area, please note that we are not yet specifying a particular area (or season) to be regulated. For instance, the range could extend from Massachusetts south or be focused on a more narrow area like south of New Jersey, and be in effect from May to November or some other shorter temporal window, so please consider how your response may be different given this.|
|Please describe any additional costs that you would experience if required to use a TED. This can include costs related to extra fuel, extra time due to added tows to compensate for potential catch loss, labor to install/maintain the TED, and/or other operational and catch considerations.|
|Some of the testing indicates that the TEDs will reduce unwanted bycatch (e.g., skates, rays) in some situations. Is the capture of these species an issue in your fishery and, if so, would reducing the bycatch have an economic impact or benefit?|
|If you were required to use a TED, would you tow longer, complete additional tows, or engage in another strategy to compensate for any reduction in landed catch?|
Please help us to better understand the potential impacts of limited tow durations:
Providing Your Feedback
Please provide written comments and feedback on the questions above to email@example.com. Input will be accepted until May 31, 2022.
Call In Days
We are holding remote office hours to give the public an opportunity to provide input over the phone.
If you would like to speak to us about your input, please call (978) 281-9276 on the following days and hours. Your phone call may be recorded to fully capture your input. If the phone line is busy, please leave a voicemail. We will get back to you as soon as possible. The phone line WILL NOT be operational outside of these days and hours.
- Friday, March 4, 2022. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET
- Tuesday, March 22, 2022. Noon to 6 p.m. ET
Virtual Stakeholder Webinars
We are holding virtual webinars to provide an overview of sea turtle bycatch and gear research in trawl fisheries in the Greater Atlantic Region, specifically in the Atlantic croaker, longfin squid, and summer flounder fisheries. These webinars are open to all interested parties to gather input and information to inform any future measures.
There will be a short presentation at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by an opportunity for attendees to provide input and comments. You will need to sign in and add your name to the queue. To register, use the links below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The overview and general content will be the same for all webinars, but we will go into more details about the fisheries and gear modifications at the webinars with the identified species focus. Webinars will be recorded.
Webinar Dates, Times, and Focus:
- February 16, 2022. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. Atlantic croaker focus. Register here to view the recorded meeting.
- March 1, 2022. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. Longfin squid focus. Register here to view the recorded meeting.
- March 14, 2022. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. Summer flounder focus. Register here to view the recorded meeting.
If you are new to this platform, we strongly recommend that you log on early to avoid technical issues. You may join the webinar starting at 6 p.m. ET.
If you are interested in participating in gear research, please contact Henry Milliken (firstname.lastname@example.org).