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Turtle Excluder Device (TED) Chronology

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1978-1980: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) charged with establishing gear, turtle excluder device (TED) that excludes sea turtles from shrimp trawls. NMFS estimates 47,000 turtles are caught annually with more than 12,000 mortalities. Excluder panel yields poor results for turtle exclusion and shrimp retention and therefore is abandoned.

1981-1983: The NMFS TED, a large, cage-like device with a metal-framed trap door, is developed. TED is refined over next several years to be collapsible and voluntary use is promoted. Excludes 97% of all sea turtles and zero percent of shrimp catch.

1984: Marine Turtle Recovery Plan was produced by a NMFS-appointed team of turtle biologists. Plan singles out shrimp trawl conflicts as number one priority to be resolved in order to recover species. Encourages TED use by fleet.

1981-1986: Voluntary use of TEDs promoted by NMFS . . . essentially a failed effort – less than two percent of fleet is estimated to be using the NMFS TED.

1986: Shrimper/environmentalist/NMFS hold pre-regulation meetings to decide on best method for TED implementation.

1986-1987: Georgia shrimper, Sinkey Boone, displays “Georgia Jumper” in southeastern states. Other shrimpers also design TEDs, including a soft TED, which are tested and certified in the Cape Canaveral ship channel.

March 2, 1987: Proposed regulations requiring TEDs published in Federal Register (52 FR 6179-6199). Due to go into effect July of 1987, but are not enforced.

June 29, 1987: Final regulations published (52 FR 24244-242621). Effective for inshore and offshore waters: October 1, 1987 Canaveral, January 1, 1988 SW Florida, March 1, 1988 Gulf, and May 1, 1988 Atlantic. Areal and temporal extents define by shrimping areas. Delayed by the United States Senate.

August 27, 1987: Attorney General for the State of North Carolina files petition with Secretary of Commerce to amend rules to exclude North Carolina (52 FR 38253) from violation of notice and comment procedures.

February 1988: Louisiana files suit in Federal Court to throw out regulations. February 29, 1988, case decided in favor of Secretary of Commerce. Within this time frame and at the state level, Louisiana passes legislation making it illegal for state agents to enforce Federal TED regulations.

March 15, 1988: NMFS decides not to reopen rulemaking in response to the North Carolina petition.

March 21, 1988: Louisiana files for injunction delaying TED implementation pending appeal of February decision against the state. Injunction granted April 12, 1988.

June 1988: State of South Carolina promulgates state regulations requiring TEDs in state waters. South Carolina Shrimpers Association challenged twice and State Supreme Court upholds regulations, lastly on August 26, 1988.

July 11, 1988: Fifth District Court rejects Louisiana’s appeal of March, 1988, but delays TED implementation until September 1, 1988. Later Congress postpones beginning date until September 30, 1988 to allow for Endangered Species Act reauthorization with amendments.

September 16, 1988: Heflin amendment to ESA reauthorization delays effective date of TED regulations to May 1, 1989, for offshore waters and May 1, 1990, for inshore waters.

November-December 1988: The State of Florida, after discovering hundreds of turtles washing ashore dead coincident with heavy shrimping efforts, passes emergency state regulations requiring the use of TEDs. Secretary of Commerce later follows with emergency rulemaking for north Florida.

March 1989: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) notifies Secretary of Commerce of intent to sue to insure enforcement of TED regulations. Suit not brought when the EDF found out that NMFS could (as feared) only legally issue one warning followed by citations and could not repeat warnings to repeat offenders.

March 1, 1989: The Committee on Sea Turtle Conservation is formed under the auspices of the National Research Council (NRC) to study and review status of sea turtles and effectiveness of TED regulations and other conservation measures.

April 28, 1989: Louisiana again files suit blocking regulations.

May 1, 1989: Secretary of Commerce Mosbacher implemented a 60-day grace period to give shrimpers time to obtain and install TEDs.

May 1989: Rider on South Carolina legislation enacted which states, “TEDs must be used under the same conditions required by federal regulations.” This prevents enforcement of South Carolina state regulations requiring TEDs.

July 1, 1989: Fully enforced TED regulations begin.

July 10, 1989: Eighth District of the United States Coast Guard suspended enforcement until the Secretary of Commerce could resolve alleged sea grass problems. NMFS surveyed the Gulf and concluded the problem was minor.

July 20, 1989: The Secretary of Commerce resumed enforcement of the regulations.

July 22-23, 1989: Gulf shrimpers blockaded harbors, disrupted navigation, and engaged in other forms of violence to protest the TED regulations.

July 24, 1989: Secretary of Commerce Mosbacher announced a 45-day suspension of enforcement of the TED regulations. He would amend the regulations to allow shrimpers to limit their tow times instead of using TEDs.

July 25, 1989: The National Wildlife Federation, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, and the Florida Wildlife Federation filed suit against the Secretary of Commerce.

August 3, 1989: United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Federations, finding that the Secretary lacked “good cause” to suspend enforcement. The court directed the Secretary to either “reinstitute existing TED regulations, or issue interim turtle conservation measures to become effective immediately."

August 7, 1989: The Secretary issued an interim final rule that requires shrimp fishermen from North Carolina through Texas to limit trawl tow times to specified 105-minute period or use Turtle Excluder Devices.

August 8, 1989: This went into effect and the Federations filed a motion to challenge the interim final rule.

April 23, 1990: “Decline of the Sea Turtle – Cause and Prevention” is published by the National Research Council (NRC). They conclude that “for juveniles, sub-adults, and breeders in the coastal waters, the most important human-associated source of mortality is incidental capture in shrimp trawls, which accounts for more deaths than all other human activities combined.”

May 1 – August 31, 1990: TEDs required and strandings are lower. In South Carolina, record numbers of dead sea turtles occur in September, October, and November.

1991: TEDs required year round under interim final rule. Record low number of strandings in South Carolina. However, record numbers of leatherback sea turtles strand in Georgia during spring migration.

1992: Record number of leatherback sea turtles strand in South Carolina during spring migration.

December 4, 1992: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries publishes a final rule in which the specifications for the TED opening dimensions for single-grid hard TEDs: 35 inches horizontal and, simultaneously, 12 inches vertical in the Atlantic, and 32 inches horizontal and, simultaneously, 10 inches vertical in the Gulf of Mexico.

1993: NMFS, United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida develop the Leatherback Contingency Plan to reduce leatherback mortality in shrimp trawls.

November 14, 1994: NOAA Fisheries completes section 7 consultation and issues a biological opinion that states “continued long-term operation of the shrimp fishery in the southeastern U.S. is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Kemp’s ridley population”. In order for the shrimp fishery to continue, NOAA Fisheries must develop an emergency response plan. NOAA Fisheries is required to convene the Turtle Expert Working Group (TEWG) which should attempt to determine the maximum number of sea turtles of each species that can be taken incidentally to commercial fishing without jeopardizing the continued existence of the species.

May 12, 1995: NMFS establishes the leatherback conservation zone regulations to implement the Leatherback Contingency Plan. In weekly aerial surveys, if sightings, in replicate surveys, exceed 10 leatherback turtles per 50 nautical miles (nm) (92.6 km) of trackline, NMFS will close, for a two-week period, waters within one degree of latitude of the trackline to shrimp trawlers unless they use a TED modified with the leatherback exit opening.

December 19, 1996: NMFS publishes final rule to amend the regulations to:
1) Require TEDs in try nets with lead rope length greater than 12 feet. 2) Establish shrimp fishery/sea turtle conservation areas (SFSTCAs) which include the inshore and offshore waters of Georgia and South Carolina out to 10 nautical miles, and the offshore waters of Texas and Louisiana out to 10 nautical miles.3) Remove approval of all soft TEDs.

March 1, 1997: The above changes become effective. In addition, the requirements for bottom-opening hard TEDs are modified.

March 1998: First Report of the Turtle Expert Working Group (TWEG) is published.

April 13, 1998: NOAA Fisheries issues and interim final rule authorizing the use of a new soft TED – the Parker TED – in certain trawl net styles for an 18-month trial period.

September 1999: NMFS publishes report by Epperly and Teas which shows that many loggerheads and adult green turtles will not fit through current TED size opening.

October 13, 1999: NMFS issues interim final rule to amend the regulations to extend for one additional year the approved use of the Parker soft TED.

April 5, 2000: NMFS issues an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modify the size of the TED escape opening, modify or decertify hooped hard TEDs and weedless TEDs, and change the requirements for the types of flotation devices allowed. NMFS is also considering modifications to the leatherback conservation zone regulations to provide better protection to leatherback turtles.

November 2000: Second report of the Turtle Expert Working Group is published.

January 9, 2001: NMFS issued a final rule to amend the regulations to permanently approve the Parker soft TED for use in the waters of the Atlantic and Gulf Areas of the United States.

May 14, 2001: NMFS issues an interim final rule to add the double cover flap Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to the list of hard TEDs approved for use by shrimp trawlers operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern United States and in the Gulf of Mexico.

October 2, 2001: NMFS proposes to amend the regulations protecting sea turtles to enhance their effectiveness to exclude leatherbacks and large, sexually mature loggerhead and green turtles.

April 19, 2002: NMFS closed, for a 2-week period, all inshore waters and offshore waters 10 nautical miles from St. Andrews Sound, Georgia to Tybee Island, Georgia within the Leatherback Conservation Zone unless the TED has an escape opening large enough to exclude leatherback turtles.

April 26 thru May 10, 2002: NMFS closed, for a 2-week period, all inshore waters and offshore waters 10 nautical miles from Tybee Island, Georgia to Wilmington Beach, North Carolina within the Leatherback Conservation Zone unless the TED has an escape opening large enough to exclude leatherback turtles.

May 10 thru May 24, 2002: NMFS extended (for a 2-week period) the previous closure to reduce mortality of endangered leatherback sea turtles incidentally captured in shrimp trawls.

May 20, 2002: As a result of the joint effort of the South Carolina Shrimpers Association and the turtle conservation projects, the South Carolina governor signs legislation “providing that, until federal regulations are amended to increase the escape openings in turtle excluder devices to a certain size, each trawl net using a hard TED in the salt waters of this state must have a TED opening of not less than 35 inches in taut horizontal length and not less that 20 inches in simultaneous vertical taut height or a federally approved leatherback or double cover flap hard TED modification.”

May 24, 2002: NMFS imposed 30-day Emergency Restrictions from Cape Fear, North Carolina to just north of St. Augustine, Florida to require TEDs that are modified to have openings large enough for leatherback sea turtles to escape and prohibited fishing at night. Imposed as a result of high turtle mortality along Georgia’s beaches (93 between May 5 and May 19, 2002).

February 21, 2003: Final rule published in Federal Register. Changes effective April 15, 2003 in the Atlantic area and after 6 months (August 21, 2003) in the Gulf area. Summary (in part): 1) Requires all hard TEDs to have a grid with minimum outside measurements of 32 inches (81 cm) by 32 inches in all waters. 2) Requires the use of either the recently approved double cover flap TED or a TED with an opening of at least 71-inch straight-line stretched mesh measurement in all offshore waters and the inshore and offshore waters of Georgia and South Carolina. 3) Disallows the use of hooped hard TEDs in offshore waters. They can only be used in inshore waters, and not in Georgia or South Carolina. 4) Eliminates the special regulations for the leatherback conservation zone and for flaps on bottom opening TEDs in the shrimp fishery sea turtle conservation areas. 5) Requires tow time restrictions on try nets with headrope lengths of 12 feet or less.

To Be Continued...