BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — New regulations that would have forced shrimpers in the bays and marshes of the Gulf of Mexico to install devices on their nets to save endangered sea turtles were scrapped Tuesday by federal officials.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is withdrawing plans by its fisheries service to require "turtle excluder devices" for small fishing operations that trawl for shrimp in state waters.
NOAA said data collected over the summer showed the devices — which are escape hatches for sea turtles on nets — may not keep small turtles from being caught in the shallower waters that would have been subject to the requirement.
"The information we now have suggests the conservation benefit does not justify the burden this rule would place on the industry. We need more research looking at different options," Roy Crabtree, southeast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, said in a statement.
The rules had been set to take effect by spring. Gulf of Mexico shrimpers had said the requirement could push them out of business. The change would have affected 2,600 fishermen, including an estimated 2,300 vessels in Louisiana.
Crabtree said federal officials will continue their research to help prevent turtle deaths.
"We're not abandoning this issue. There's just more work that needs to be done to get it right," he said.
A spike in turtle deaths in the Gulf since 2010, environmental lawsuits, the BP PLC oil spill and the endangered status of sea turtles have spurred federal officials to look at stronger protections for vulnerable turtle populations.
In the past two years, more than 1,100 dead sea turtles have been found in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama waters. Federal scientists estimate about 28,000 sea turtles are caught each year in nets.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a national conservation group that sought the protections, criticized the decision to shelve the proposed federal rules, saying further delay will cause unnecessary turtle deaths.
"The agency's failure to protect these species is tragic. Despite its own claim that the Fisheries Service is not abandoning its promise to protect sea turtles, it is in fact maintaining the deadly status quo by failing to move forward with any protective measures," said Jaclyn Lopez, a lawyer for the center.
Turtle excluder devices have been required for larger shrimp vessels that work in federal waters for more than two decades, according to NOAA, but not in state waters, with shallower areas and smaller turtles.
Instead of the devices, fishermen in state waters are supposed to lift their nets out of the water every once in a while to help trapped turtles breathe and get out of nets. NOAA officials said they've had trouble with low compliance and difficulties in enforcement.
The proposed rules targeted three common types of nets called skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls and wing net trawls. Other states that would have been included in the rules, according to NOAA spokeswoman Allison Garrett, were Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida.
Fishermen have long resisted moves to force the turtle-saving gear on the fleet. Shrimpers said there was little evidence that they were responsible for the spike in sea turtle deaths and said the cost of the new rules could destroy the industry.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.