Gazebo Gazette

NOAA Fisheries is delaying the effective date of the final rule amending the definition of tow time and requiring the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) designed to exclude small sea turtles in their nets in skimmer trawls 40 feet in length and greater in the Southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries until August 1, 2021.

Safety and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited our Gear Monitoring Team’s ability to complete the in-person workshops and training sessions on the final rule that we had anticipated and communicated to the public.

The delay in the effective date is to allow NOAA Fisheries additional time for training fishermen, ensuring TEDs are built and installed properly, and for responding to installation and maintenance problems when the regulations go in effect.

NOAA Fisheries outreach strategy will use social media, targeted virtual meetings and dockside workshops, instructional videos, digital media, and the establishment of a role-based social media and email account (info@noaa.gov).

NOAA Fisheries is also considering taking additional action to protect sea turtles in skimmer trawl fisheries. Specifically, NOAA Fisheries is reconsidering the potential expansion of TED requirements for skimmer trawl vessels less than 40 feet in length and whether additional rule-making is currently warranted.

By August 1, 2021, skimmer trawl vessels 40 feet and greater in length that are rigged for fishing are required to install TEDs in their nets. For the purposes of this rule, vessel length is the length specified on the vessel’s state registration or the U.S. Coast Guard vessel documentation required to be onboard the vessel while fishing.

The final rule delays the effective date from April 1, 2021 to August 1, 2021.  NOAA Fisheries has made no other changes to the regulations that were published in the skimmer trawl final rule.