|The speedy enforcement boat overtakes a shrimper to board and inspect the Turtle Excluder Device and license. STRP photo with assistance from LightHawk.|
During this year's opening day of Texas shrimping, Sea Turtle Restoration Project marine biologist Dr. Chris Pincetich and volunteers used an airplane to assist NOAA enforcement boats checking for use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). Shrimp trawl nets trap and kill thousands of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico each year, and have devastated populations of endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles.
In June, our members sent in thousands of emails and letters to NOAA and Texas Parks and Wildlife urging them to increase enforcement of required TEDs and prepare for out of state shrimpers from oil spill states.
On July 15, opening day for shrimping, STRP partnered with LightHawk to fly over the Gulf in search of illegal shrimpers. Our flights covered inshore waters from the Louisiana border clear to North Padre Island. Susan Lewis and Chris Pincetich spotted 73 shrimp boats, and immediately spoke directly with NOAA enforcement to help them locate the majority of the boats, and to report 2 suspicious boats.
On July 16, STRP was in the air again counting boats, and our plane intercepted the enforcement boat. We hovered above as the small enforcement boat sped up to a shrimper, quickly boarded, and checked both nets and licenses. In only 5 minutes, they sped away to the next boat. An AP photographer working with us was thrilled to see this action and document it, the culmination of another STRP campaign.
Circling overhead in the LightHawk airplane, Chris Pincetich filmed the enforcement boat overtaking and boarding a shrimp trawler in the short video below.