After decades in which encounters between the scallop fishery and marine turtles were exceedingly rare, encounters spiked in one of the access areas in the Mid-Atlantic during the early 2000s. While observed encounters have abated, FSF takes this issue very seriously and has been working with gear technologists, scientists and NMFS to address the problem, including:
- Designing and testing a turtle excluder device to minimize harm inflicted upon turtles. Following successful tests, FSF petitioned NMFS to mandatethis device’s use throughout the fishery. NMFS formally mandated the device’s use in 2006. Virtually no sea turtles have been observed in scallop dredges since then.
- Filling important information gaps by studying the behavioral and feeding habits of turtles through the use of aerial surveys, remotely operated vehicles, and cameras mounted on dredges and sleds in order to determine when and where turtle encounters are likely to occur.
- Partnering with independent researchers to develop a new scallop dredge design that prevents turtles from going under the dredge. Many fishermen are adopting this new design, which also demonstrably reduces fin-fish “by-catch,” voluntarily.
- FSF is helping to initiate a first-of-its-kind in-water survey of turtle abundance. This survey will help to inform researchers and fishery managers about the size and distribution of mid-Atlantic loggerhead turtles.
FSF is proud of the proactive role it has played for the past decade. It seeks to sustain what has become the premier fishery management success story on the East Coast, if not the entire Nation, by ensuring that NMFS and federal managers have the best information necessary to accomplish the task.