This summer staff from the NOAA Fisheries Pascagoula Lab hit the docks in fishing communities throughout the South Atlantic region to provide training and outreach on required sea turtle release gear and protocols. The requirement affects all vessels in the South Atlantic with a federal commercial permit or a federal charter/headboat permit for harvesting snapper-grouper. The team held workshops to raise awareness about the requirement and improve compliance in the fishery. Workshops covered gear requirements, where to purchase or how to make the gear, how to use the gear, and possible fines associated with not having the required equipment on board the vessel. This conservation measure was put into place in the South Atlantic after Secretarial approval of Comprehensive Ecosystem-Based Amendment 2 (CE-BA 2) and became effective September 30, 2012.
Not sure what you need for your vessel? Here is a quick breakdown of the requirements and the release gear that different sized vessels need onboard:
- All vessels must carry copies of the two documents, Careful Release Protocols for Sea Turtle Release With Minimal Injury , and the sea turtle handling and release guidelines placard provided by NMFS. Must be displayed in or near the wheelhouse.
- Vessels with a freeboard height of 4 ft (1.2 m) or less: Use a dipnet, cushioned/support device, short-handled dehooker, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, monofilament line cutters, and at least two types of mouth openers/mouth gags.
- Vessels with a freeboard height of greater than 4 ft (1.2 m):Use a dipnet, cushioned/support device, long-handled line clipper, a short-handled and a long-handled dehooker, a long-handled device to pull an inverted “V”, long-nose or needle-nose pliers, bolt cutters, monofilament line cutters, and at least two types of mouth openers/mouth gags.
For a complete list of requirements including demonstration videos of handling and release methods, visit the NMFS SERO Handling and Release Requirements page at: