Evaluations of turtle excluder device (TED) performance in the U.S. southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico skimmer trawl fisheries
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Evaluations of turtle excluder device (TED) performance in the U.S. southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico skimmer trawl fisheries

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  • Alternative Title:
    TED performance in the U.S. southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico skimmer trawl fisheries
  • Description:
    Skimmer trawls are utilized throughout the southeastern United States to target penaeid shrimp (Penaeidae). Skimmer trawls consist of nets attached to rigid frames on each side of the vessel that are pushed through the water column. Once the frames and nets are lowered into the water, only the cod ends are retrieved to remove the catch, while the mouths of the skimmer trawls continually fish. Because the cod ends can be readily retrieved, skimmer trawls are allowed to utilize restricted tow times (55 and 75 minute, seasonally) in lieu of TED requirements as a sea turtle bycatch mitigation measure. However, observations aboard commercial vessels indicate that tow times are often exceeded (Scott-Denton et al. 2006). Recently, a mass stranding event occurring in the late spring 2010 along the Mississippi Gulf Coast was attributed to skimmer trawl activity. To address this potential problem, the NMFS SEFSC Harvesting Systems Unit investigated the feasibility of TED use in these fisheries. Utilizing multiple commercial vessels, paired comparisons designed to examine target shrimp catch retention, bycatch reduction and gear usability associated with TED use were conducted. During testing, a TED was installed in one net, while the other was left naked (no TED installed) with the TED switched between nets daily to remove potential vessel side bias. Various TED configurations were tested in Mississippi, Alabama (2008 and 2009) and North Carolina (2010). Results from these studies indicate that TEDs can function effectively in commercial skimmer trawl operations with a relatively minimal reduction in target shrimp catch, which ranged from an increase of 1.3% to a reduction of 11%. In addition, unwanted bycatch (e.g., skates, teleost fish) was significantly reduced on most operations. Fishermen were surveyed and results indicate that fishermen highly favored the levels of bycatch reduction observed. In addition, there were no sea turtle interactions observed in skimmer trawls equipped with TEDs and three sea turtle captures were observed in control nets without TEDs. However, due to the small sample size these results were not statistically significant. Results of these studies and post interviews with the contracted fishermen indicate that TEDs are a viable management option for the reduction of sea turtle bycatch in skimmer trawls. While shrimp loss was observed, reductions associated with TED use were minimal. The SEFSC Harvesting Systems staff will continue to work with the industry to develop the most efficient TEDs for these trawl fisheries with the goal of reducing bycatch and minimizing shrimp losses to the greatest extent possible. Testing of several different TED configurations is slated for North Carolina and Louisiana during the 2011 shrimp season.
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