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MDMR Responds Proactively to Sea Turtle Issues

BILOXI, Miss. – The NOAA “Scoping Document to Reduce Incidental Bycatch and Mortality of Sea Turtles in the Southeastern U.S. Shrimp Fishery” is currently being reviewed by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) staff. Sea turtles die for a number of reasons, including boat strikes, disease, harmful algal blooms, encounters with pollutants and fishery interactions. MDMR, while recognizing sea turtle jurisdiction resides with NOAA, will continue proactive efforts with recreational and commercial fishermen to address fisheries interactions that may result in strandings.

• Sea turtle information mail-outs including proper handling, disentanglement and resuscitation techniques in case of a sea turtle interaction have been sent to 66,332 recreational and 2,092 commercial fishermen to increase public awareness.

• Since July 2010 MDMR Office of Marine Fisheries, through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has distributed turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to licensed shrimp fishermen who utilize skimmer trawls. As of June 2011, 362 TEDs have been distributed to 181 Mississippi shrimp vessels.

• As a precautionary measure to increase sea turtle survival, trawling times were reduced for vessels using skimmer trawls from 55 minutes to 30 minutes starting June 20, 2010, and ending Oct. 30, 2010.

• Sea turtle fishery interaction seminars were held at various locations. One recreational and five commercial fishing workshops included directions on how to handle interactions with sea turtles. The five commercial sessions were held on how to properly install TED gear.

• MDMR personnel continue trips onboard commercial and live-bait shrimp vessels to observe and record any interactions with sea turtles. During the 30 trips taken to date, four interactions with sea turtles (all in 2010) were observed and all four were immediately released unharmed.

• MDMR Marine Patrol has stepped up compliance checks to include 161 shrimp vessel boardings resulting in five (5) violations in state waters so far, in 2011.

• Efforts are on-going to continue proactive education and awareness programs to reduce the number of turtle interactions with recreational and commercial fishermen, including distribution of angle meters to shrimp fishermen to aid in the correct positioning of TED gear in their nets.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is dedicated to enhancing, protecting and conserving marine interests of the state by managing all marine life, public trust wetlands, adjacent uplands and waterfront areas to provide for the optimal commercial, recreational, educational and economic uses of these resources consistent with environmental concerns and social changes. Visit the DMR online at www.dmr.ms.gov.

Contact: Lauren Thompson
Phone: 228-523-4053

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