Texas shrimp net massacre.When you think of Texas in the spring, what comes to mind? Vibrant wildflowers in bloom? Longhorns lowing? How about slaughtered sea turtles washing up on the shores?
A recent undercover investigation in Texas has exposed outlaw shrimp fishers disabling the special nets that save sea turtles. In the wake of these disclosures, activists are calling on the government to improve enforcement efforts and close some areas to shrimp fishing.
For years, sea turtle carcasses with decapitated de·cap·i·tate
tr.v. de·cap·i·tat·ed, de·cap·i·tat·ing, de·cap·i·tates
To cut off the head of; behead.
[Late Latin d heads, severed flippers n. 1. A type of shoe with a paddle-like front extending well beyond the end of the toe, used an aid in swimming (especially underwater). and smashed shells have been found on Texas beaches. The grisly toll includes the Kemp's ridley Kemp's ridley
See ridley. , one of the world's most endangered turtles.
Between April 1 and May 6 of this year, 38 of the 74 dead sea turtles that washed ashore ("stranded") in Texas were Kemp's ridleys. This species, whose once-abundant population may have numbered in the millions, has been decimated. Today, less than 2,000 nesting females remain.
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Todd Steiner, director of Earth Island's Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), the number of reported strandings reflects only a small percentage of the turtle actually killed. "Most dead sea turtles never wash ashore. Some are devoured by sharks and others just sink to the ocean bottom."
A typical report from the Texas stranding office reads, in part:
"One adult female Kemp's ridley was located offshore in [the Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, in Christianity
Corpus Christi [Lat.,=body of Christ], feast of the Western Church, observed on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (or on the following Sunday). area]; she had... a straight-edge cut at the base of her nearly severed right flipper See DualDisc. . One Kemp's ridley in [the Matagorda area] was missing the head and carapace carapace (kâr`əpās), shield, or shell covering, found over all or part of the anterior dorsal portion of an animal. In lobsters, shrimps, crayfish, and crabs, the carapace is the part of the exoskeleton that covers the head and thorax [which] had been removed using straight-edge cuts."
Straight-edge cuts are made by knives wielded by human hands. These cuts are easily differentiated from the jagged-edge cuts caused by shark bites.
The National Academy of Sciences found that more sea turtles die from shrimp fishing in US waters than from all other human-caused mortalities combined. Bowing to public pressure, the federal government now requires all shrimp vessels to use turtle-excluder devices (TEDs) on their nets. TEDs are metal grids that prevent turtles from drowning by directing them to escape hatches in the shrimp nets. They are simple, inexpensive and have been proven not to reduce shrimp catch significantly.
Government regulators claim that 95-99 percent of shrimpers are using TEDs properly on their nets. But if shrimpers are using protective technology, why are turtles dying?
To answer this question, STRP and the Humane Society A humane society is a group that aims to stop animal suffering due to cruelty or other reasons. Examples
Examples of humane societies include: The Humane Society of the United States, Peninsula Humane Society, American Humane which was founded in 1877 as a network of of the US (HSUS HSUS Humane Society of the United States ) conducted a joint undercover operation. HSUS professional investigators spent five months in Texas, visiting five Ports in Galveston, Aransas Pass Aransas Pass is a navigable salt water channel connecting the Gulf of Mexico with Aransas Bay on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States. The pass separates Mustang Island to the south from San José Island to the north, and is protected by jetties extending into the Gulf from , Sabine and Corpus Christi. After surveying hundreds of vessels, the investigators reported that, on 41 percent of the ships, the TEDS had been purposefully dismantled. Some shrimpers had sewed TEDs into nets without an opening for turtles to escape. In some cases, a fake flap was sewn on the outside to give the appearance of an escape hatch. On other vessels, the escape opening was tied shut with rope.
"The National Marine Fisheries Service The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine and the Coast Guard claim almost 100 percent compliance with TED regulations," Steiner says. "Our investigation shows little more than 50 percent compliance."
One shrimper was audiotaped admitting that he not only ties his TEDs shut, but he also mutilates and kills endangered sea turtles. "Who's going to fuck with me?" the shrimper challenged. "Where I go, yeah... I get 'em ... and cut their fucking head off." He claimed that most other shrimpers he knows also tie their TEDs shut.
"Shrimping associations claim that shrimpers all use TEDs properly so sea turtles can escape their nets. Obviously, [some] shrimpers don't," Steiner says.
Shrimpers may mutilate mu·ti·late
tr.v. mu·ti·lat·ed, mu·ti·lat·ing, mu·ti·lates
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue. the dead turtles in the hope that the bloody remains will sink or be eaten by sharks. They know they are breaking the law and want to get rid of the evidence.
Texas activist Carole Allen of Help Endangered Animals -- Ridley Turtles (HEART) proposes that certain areas, such as Padre Island National Seashore Padre Island National Seashore (PAIS) is a National Seashore located on Padre Island off the coast of South Texas. In contrast to South Padre Island (well known for its beaches and vacationing college students), PAIS is located on North Padre Island and consists of a long beach , be dosed to shrimp fishing to help reduce the sea turtle mortality rate. Padre Island Padre Island (päd`rē, păd`rē), low, sandy island, c.115 mi (185 km) long, less than 3 mi (4.8 km) wide, S Tex. It is characterized by large, irregular sand dunes, sparse vegetation, and a strong prevailing wind off the Gulf of Mexico. , a federally protected national park, is the only nesting site for the Kemp's ridley in the US. STRP also has requested that Padre Island and other important feeding and migratory pathways be closed to shrimping.
Steiner is calling on the government to increase and improve enforcement efforts by conducting regular undercover investigations and assigning US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agents to help enforce TED laws.
Over the past three years, an increasing number of dead turtles has washed ashore in Texas. The deadly tide ebbs only when the shrimp fishing season ends or when the US National Marine Fisheries Service and Coast Guard conduct well-publicized enforcement efforts.
As the STRP/HSUS undercover investigation demonstrates, more, aggressive federal action is needed to protect North America's endangered sea turtles.
* What You Can Do: Contact Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20002, fax (202) 208-5048, and request that Padre Island be closed to shrimp fishing. Ask that FWS agents be assigned to help enforce TED laws. Write Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley, Herbert C. Hoover Building, Room 5862, 14th Street, Washington, DC 20230 and demand that the departments of Commerce and Interior increase funding to enforce TED regulations, conduct undercover operations and close important migratory and feeding areas for the Kemp's ridley turtle to shrimp fishing.