Gulf Coast shrimpers say new federal regulations to protect endangered sea turtles from getting caught in trawl nets are difficult to comply with, and many say there will be violation of the rules when they take effect today.
The new rules require Gulf shrimpers to attach on their nets larger turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, which act as escape hatches for turtles. Shrimpers have long complained that TEDs are disastrous because they let shrimp get out.
Michael Gros, secretary of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, says few shrimpers have the proper nets. He says federal officials have done a poor job of telling shrimpers how to meet the requirements.
And shrimpers complain that the new TEDs let even more shrimp escape.
Federal researchers say the new rules, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, will cut down the deaths of leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles by about 95 percent.
Not having the proper nets could cost shrimpers a lot of money. A first-offense is punishable by fines between $1,500 and $8,500. Shrimpers face the same fines for not allowing enforcement agents to inspect their boats.