CHENNAI: Following a successful trial of the Turtle Excluder Device (TED), fishermen at Kasimedu fishing harbour and local boat owners this season have come forward have agreed to use the device which protects endangered sea turtles from trawling-related mortality.
Every year thousands of sea turtles die during trawling operations along the Indian coastline accounting for close to 13 percent of the incidental catch of sea turtles with fishing gear.
Though sea turtles spend most of the time in the deep sea, it has to surface every 30-45 minutes. If they are accidentally trapped in trawl nets, they are unable to return to the surface and drown to death. The Fisheries and Forest Department, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Coast Security Group with the help of TREE foundation came up with the idea of attaching TEDs to trawl nets which allow sea turtles to escape if they are caught in the nets through openings at the bottom.
At a time when the state government was planning to make TED mandatory for trawl nets, a trial run was made at Kasimedu fishing harbour in Chennai using a TED designed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Device, Vizag with the support of trawl fishers fleet of Chennai Chengai Singaravelar (CCS) Trawl Boat Owners Association, operating out of the post.
“Fishermen were skeptical about attaching TEDs to the nets worrying that small fishes caught in the net might escape along with the sea turtles through the designated openings at the bottom. But, during this trial demonstration, it was evident that the catch loss was only 2 to 3 percent,” said Supraja Dharini from the TREE foundation.
P Desingu, Vice President of the CCS Trawl Boat Owners Association said, “During the two-day trial, the total fish catch was around 114 kg and only a negligible amount of 4 kg escaped through the exit hole meant for turtles to escape.” “Considering the safety of the sea turtles and marine ecosystem, we have decided to attach TEDs to our trawl-nets during this sea-turtle breeding season,” he added.
Commandant, Indian Coast Guards, N Raja said, “The ICG along with other government departments have distributed 10 locally made TEDs to Kasimedu fishermen to reduce the mortality rate and bycatch in shrimp landings.”