Skimmer-trawl operators will not be required to outfit their nets with turtle-excluder devices, following research showing that a majority of the endangered reptiles snagged as bycatch in the shallow-water shrimpers' nets were small enough to slip through the contraptions.
"Fifty-eight percent of those turtles were small enough to fit through the current legal size of the bars on TEDs," said Bob Hoffman, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's endangered species branch. "The legal maximum space between the bars is 4 inches, so more than half of the turtles would possibly fit through that space and go back to the end of the net, thereby not being saved."
TEDs, a grid of bars in a trawl net that allows trapped sea turtles to escape unscathed, are currently required on only certain types of boats, including otter trawls, which trail nets from the rear of the boat along the ocean floor. Skimmer trawls, which drag nets off the sides in shallower water, have thus far been exempt from the rule.
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