Seafood Watch puts La. shrimp on ‘avoid’ list

HOUMA (AP) — A program popular with environmentally conscious people is recommending that people avoid Louisiana wild-caught shrimp. The Monterey Bay Aquarium says that’s because the state bars enforcing federal requirements for turtle escape hatches in trawls drawn in state waters.
Some major restaurants and retailers, including Whole Foods, pay attention to the aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” lists, Kim Chauvin, who runs the Mariah Jade Shrimp Co. in Chauvin, said.
Most shrimping is done in state waters. Under a 1987 state law, Louisiana agents are forbidden to enforce federal laws requiring turtle excluder devices in state waters. All other Gulf of Mexico and Southern Atlantic states enforce the requirements, the aquarium said in a report.
Many shrimpers contend that the devices cost them a big chunk of their catch.
“Even when conscientious Louisiana fishermen voluntarily comply with regulations that protect sea turtles, the state’s mandate not to enforce this essential measure creates a critical conservation concern and an ‘Avoid’ recommendation for all shrimp caught in Louisiana,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The aquarium ranked shrimp caught with otter trawls off other Gulf Coast states as a good alternative, though not the best choice. However, it says Gulf of Mexico shrimp caught with skimmer trawls should be avoided.
In addition to the turtle excluders, most U.S. shrimp boats use bycatch reduction devices that are vital to the recovery of fish species such as red snapper that are often killed accidentally in trawling gear, said Seafood Watch Director Jennifer Kemmerly.
“In all other shrimping states — from the Carolinas to Texas — use of turtle excluder devices has been effective in reducing impacts on sea turtles,” Spring said. 
“We applaud the strong federal and state fisheries management policies that require TEDs, and the conscientious shrimp fishermen who are using TEDs. They are leading the way in sea turtle recovery.”
A proposed rule to require turtle excluders in skimmer trawls was pulled earlier this year.
Chauvin said the downgrade would have some effect on business done outside the region. Locally, she said there should be little effect.
“They appeal to the people in the Midwest. People do not really know what is going on down here,” Chauvin said.
She said it’s unfair to downgrade all shrimp processed through Louisiana because many shrimpers do use those protections.
 

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