Readers were misled by out-of-context statistics and omission of facts in a recent article, "Careless Fishing Causes Depletion of Marine Life." The article cited an Oceana study that ignored today's vastly improved conservation landscape.
Thanks to the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on shrimp nets, sea turtle populations are growing, some exponentially. Last year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared the Western Atlantic Leatherback population to be of "least concern." In 2012, Florida, home to the largest U.S. loggerhead population, had its highest nesting counts in 25 years.
Also, fewer S.C. trawler licenses are being issued: 473 last year compared to 1,500 in 1982. Given today's diminutive fishing effort and the use of TEDs, area fishermen found the report preposterous.
According to a federal document, the majority of assumed turtle mortalities occur in the Gulf of Mexico to Kemp's Ridley turtles. Skimmer trawls were held responsible for some. But a 2014 government memorandum reported that, after two years of observation, there were no turtle deaths on skimmer trawls.
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Also, shrimp vessels must use bycatch reduction devices, allowing fin fish to swim free from nets. Dead discards are eaten by natural predators. Nothing goes to waste.
Experts agree there's little more S.C. shrimpers can do to aid conservation efforts other than disappear. If Oceana was truly concerned about ecological impacts of shrimp consumption, its focus would be on imported farm-raised shrimp and the disastrous consequences to the environment and consumers' health.
Editor's Note: Budi is a commercial fisherman, member of the S.C. Seafood Alliance and regional director of the Blue Water Fishermen's Association.