North America

The US proposes to save turtles from nets

Undated handout of a Green turtle swimming on a coral reef. Source: Ursula Keuper-Bennett/Peter Benn

America is proposing shrimp fisherman use nets equipped with turtle escape hatches, which could save as many as 2500 endangered sea turtles every year.

Shrimp fisherman in America might have to start using nets equipped with turtle escape hatches in the hope it will save as many as 2500 endangered sea turtles a year.

America's National Marine Fisheries Service wants to require more shrimp fishermen to use "turtle excluder devices" to prevent sea turtle deaths.

The devices are metal grates that allow turtles to escape the boats' nets.

The new rules would apply mostly in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, home to a major part of America's largest shrimp fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This will allow the fishery to continue to operate and produce seafood, and it will aid our path down the recovery of the sea turtle population," said Roy Crabtree, south-east regional administrator for the fisheries service.

Shrimp fishermen, many of whom are already subject to similar rules, have long been preparing for more turtle protections, said Acy Cooper, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association.

Cooper and others in the shrimp business have voiced concerns that the turtle excluder devices could be difficult to operate safely on smaller boats that work in inshore waters.

The federal government had till Thursday to propose regulations to protect turtles under a settlement with the conservation nonprofit Oceana.

The proposal will be subject to a public comment process through mid-February.

Oceana sued the government in April 2015, arguing that the government estimates more than 500,000 sea turtles get caught in shrimp nets each year, and more than 53,000 of them die.

The group said on Thursday that new rules would save as many as 2500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year by ensuring around 5800 currently exempt boats use the preventative device.