Pressure continues to build on Governor Bush to declare the Kemp's Ridley
Marine Reserve (see final paragraph of article below). Thank you to all
who have written elected officals on this issue to date and thanks in
advance to those who will in the near future.
Keep the pressure on! Visit <www.seaturtles.org> to learn how you can do
more or join our email activist alert list by sending the following message
"I want to join your activist list-serve" to <[log in to unmask]>.
SEA TURTLE RESTORATION PROJECT
POB 400/40 Montezuma Avenue o Forest Knolls, CA 94933
PH. 415 488 0370 o FAX 415 488 0372 o www.seaturtles.org
From AP, published in Houston Chronicle
July 26, 1999
Turtle deaths up since shrimping season recently opened
GALVESTON (AP) -- Sea turtle deaths along the Texas coast have risen
sharply since shrimping season opened nearly two weeks ago, despite tight
law enforcement and better-than-ever compliance by shrimpers, officials
David Bernhart, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service,
said 29 dead sea turtles, including five Kemp's ridley turtles, were found
on Texas beaches during the first full week after shrimp boats returned to
the water July 15. In previous weeks, authorities counted an average of
less than five dead turtles.
"There definitely is a strong effect when shrimping starts up," Bernhart
said Monday. "Unfortunately, we see it every year."
Texas Parks and Wildlife officials cited an 18 percent year-to-date
increase in turtle deaths over the previous five years. However, the
agency's Coastal Fisheries Division director, Hal Osburn, said he considers
the increase "within the expected variance."
"There is always a spike for the first few weeks after shrimp season opens,
there's no doubt about that," he said. "But turtle strandings occur all
year long. ... These are biological systems measured by imperfect human
Osburn pointed to recent growth in turtle populations, especially by
endangered Kemp's ridley turtles, as a possible explanation for higher
mortality rates. The number of Kemp's ridley nests documented in 1998 rose
50 percent over 1997.
Biologists estimate there now are between 2,000 and 3,000 mature female
Kemp's ridleys, compared to about 600 in the mid-1980s. Preservation
efforts, including the mandated use of turtle excluder devices by
shrimpers, are credited in large part with the comeback.
Officials agree shrimpers aboard several hundred boats trolling the Gulf of
Mexico this year seem to be doing their part.
"We're finding a very high compliance rate," said Roy Lawrence, director of
field operations for Texas Parks and Wildlife's law enforcement division.
"Shrimpers are doing everything they can to stay in compliance with the
Only three violations have been recorded by game wardens and no citations
have been issued, Lawrence said. Most problems have been related to misuse
of the excluder devices, which must be sewn into shrimp trawls to provide
turtles with an escape hatch, he said.
The Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service have shared
enforcement duties with 65 Texas game wardens.
Kenneth Poole, a Coast Guard petty officer at Freeport, told The Facts
newspaper of Brazoria County that the Coast Guard is performing daily
random checks of shrimp boats.
"The shrimping industry has really come on board and has, for the most
part, tried to follow the law," he said.
Most of the stranded animals recovered this year have been loggerhead sea
turtles, a threatened species. About 395 sea turtles, including 132 Kemp's
ridleys, were found dead on Texas beaches last year.
Preservationists worldwide have called for a ban on shrimping up to 17
miles offshore of North Padre Island and South Padre Island. Osburn said
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hopes to announce proposals this
spring regarding a sanctuary near the islands that would benefit both
turtle preservation and shrimp management.