UNO Wins Grant To Improve Turtle Nets

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The University of New Orleans has been awarded a $232,500 grant to design a device that protects sea turtles from being captured in small shrimping nets.

         Federal law has long required shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices, or TEDS, in their nets, but the technology has been limited to use by shrimpers using vessels longer than 25-feet with nets designed for fishing deeper waters. Associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, Martin O'Connell, says shrimpers using smaller nets in shallower waters inshore have no options that enable them to keep the shrimp in and the turtles out.

         Most sea turtle species have been classified as threatened or endangered since 1978. Data suggests the primary cause of sea turtle death is incidental capture in U.S. shrimp trawls.

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         The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant is the latest in O'Connell's ongoing work to improve TEDS.

         O'Connell works closely with the grant's co-principal investigator, Meg Uzee-O'Connell, research associate with UNO's Pontchartrain Institute of Environmental Sciences, and Jeff Gearhart, a Mississippi-based fisheries biologist with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

         Meghan Gahm, a Ph.D. candidate in UNO's engineering and applied science degree program, will be collecting data for the project over the next two years, measuring the effectiveness of various turtle excluder device designs in the field. To collect the data, researchers involve divers to travel alongside the moving trawls, filming the action and comparing shrimp catch sizes and numbers of turtles trapped when the turtle excluder device is being employed and when it is not.

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         "We are going to try to study and get the best tool for everybody, where you don't lose as much shrimp but also the turtles survive," Martin O'Connell said.



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