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NOAA Authorizes Temporary Use of Restricted Tow Times in Lieu of TEDs for Upper Texas Coast
AUSTIN, Texas — NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries Service) Oct. 8 announced a temporary authorization affecting shrimp trawlers who are required to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in certain state and federal waters off Texas. The authorization will allow shrimp trawlers in the affected areas to use restricted tow times instead of TEDs due to the large numbers of debris left by Hurricane Ike.
NOAA Fisheries Service received requests from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department requesting the authorization because their investigations indicated that increased amounts of debris on the shrimping grounds were causing TEDs to become clogged and ineffective.
"Debris fields from Hurricane Ike are prevalent in Galveston Bay, Sabine Lake and offshore from Freeport to the Louisiana border," said TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Acting Director Mike Ray. "The Texas exemption is compatible with the Louisiana exemption that is currently in place."
The exemption for Louisiana waters — due to debris from Hurricane Gustav — remains valid until 11:59 p.m., Oct. 26, 2008.
The temporary authorization for the upper Texas coast will be published in the Federal Register Oct. 14, 2008; however, it is now in effect in state and federal waters affected by Hurricane Ike from the Texas/Louisiana boundary southward to the boundary shared by Matagorda and Brazoria Counties (approximately 95º 32’W longitude), and extending offshore 20 nautical miles, and is valid until 11:59 p.m., Nov, 7, 2008.
In these areas, shrimp trawlers can trawl without TEDs but must limit their tow times to 55 minutes. Tow times are measured from the time the trawl doors enter the water until they are removed from the water.
NOAA Fisheries Service encourages shrimp trawlers in the affected areas to continue to use TEDs if possible, even though they are authorized under this action to use restricted tow times. NOAA Fisheries Service’s studies have shown that the problem of clogging by seagrass, algae, or by other debris is not unique to TED-equipped nets.
When fishermen trawl in problem areas, they may experience clogging with or without TEDs. Shrimp trawlers who continue to use legal TEDs in the affected areas do not have to limit their tow times. However, shrimpers choosing to use tow-time limitations may not simply sew the TED flaps shut; they must remove the TEDs from the trawls.
NOAA Fisheries Service will continue to monitor this situation. If monitoring indicates that debris is no longer a problem, then this authorization will be shortened. If debris continues to be a problem after the dates above, this authorization may be extended. Fishermen should monitor NOAA weather radio for announcements. They may also contact the NOAA Fisheries Service Southeast Regional Office for updated information.
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