As shrimpers do not want to deal with bycatch, and folks looking out for sea turtles do not want turtles injured or killed during trawling, turtle excluder devices came about as a way to help do both and keep sea turtles in the water.
As one of its closing acts, the Obama administration released a proposed rule in December 2016 that would mandate TEDs for skimmer, pusher-head and wing-net shrimp trawls in the United States — a rule seen as necessary by environmental groups because less than half of American shrimp boats are required to operate with TEDs.
The Trump administration did not make that rule permanent by June 15, 2017, a deadline agreed-to in federal court between the environmental advocacy group Oceana and the Obama administration. A clause in the agreement allowed Oceana to reopen the lawsuit if that was the case, and it ended up doing so months later.
With the federal government whirring back into motion for 2018, Oceana is making another push on Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to take action.
“In the spirit of cooperation with the federal government to ensure the best possible final rule, Oceana purposefully held off from taking action when the Trump administration missed its deadline to finalize these protections,” Lora Snyder, Oceana campaign director, said in a statement when the group decided to go forward again with the lawsuit. “All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable.”
TEDs are a bit of home-grown Georgia ingenuity. Georgia shrimper Sinkey Boone, of Darien, legendarily developed the first excluder device in 1968 with an eye to keep cannonball jellyfish out of his nets. In 2012 the federal government certified another of Boone’s creations, the “Georgia Jumper Big Boy,” which was developed to keep out leatherback sea turtles and allow for other sea turtles to make an easier escape. It was to also help reduce bycatch of creatures like horseshoe crabs, finfish, rays and sharks.
The Boone family worked with the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to put the TED into work.
“Our TED has the very largest escape hole for turtles,” Sinkey Boone’s son, Howell, said at the time. “And it gives you an extra bonus by reducing bycatch. In the ocean, everything feeds on everything else. If you throw off the balance, you can’t repair it. This TED gives the ocean the chance it’s been needing.”