Shrimpers' device strains out turtles

The Baltimore Sun

I read recently that shrimp are caught in nets that routinely harm sea turtles and that anyone who truly is concerned with such issues should boycott shrimp. Can you address these issues?

When it comes to shrimp, the concerned consumer can feel as if she is caught between a sea turtle and a mangrove tree: The former is a historic victim of wild shrimp-catching; the latter, of shrimp-farming. But the threat to both of these species is probably on the wane.

Wild shrimp are caught by trawlers in waters close to the shore. In the United States, shrimp are caught in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of the Carolinas and Georgia. (There is also a small cold-water shrimp fishery off the Maine coast.)

In the past, shrimp-boat nets would indeed trap other animals, sea turtles among them. But in the past few years, the industry has insisted that each boat be equipped with a Turtle Excluder Device, a metal grid that strains out and eliminates the turtles. According to Eddie Gordon, executive director of Wild American Shrimp Inc., boats are using them not just out of love of turtles. "Shrimpers want to catch shrimp," he said. "The turtles can cause major problems in the net."

It's true that other countries do not necessarily enforce by-catch excluder regulations, but the vast majority of wild shrimp consumed in the United States is caught by American shrimpers.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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