As of Monday, all shrimp boats operating in Central America and the Dominican Republic must use turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, which allow a captured sea turtle to escape when caught in a fisherman’s net.
A special committee at the Central American Integration System (SICA) decreed the mandatory measure in May, aimed at helping reduce the number of bycatch caught in shrimp nets.
Boat owners who fail to use TEDs could face fines and have their commercial fishing licenses suspended or revoked, according to regulations adopted by SICA member countries.
Antonio Porras, technical director at the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute, said that Costa Rica already had adopted similar measures in the late 1990s. He added that crews who fail to use TEDs should face charges before a criminal court.
Last month, environmental groups and Citizen Action Party lawmaker María Eugenia Venegas submitted a bill to Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly that would ban trawling nets entirely. The bill also seeks to close a loophole in current laws that allows shrimp trawlers to continue operating, but bans the use of trawling nets on other fishing boats.
The shrimp industry is one of the largest in the Central America’s fisheries fleet, but traditional fishing methods are based on trawling nets that catch other species like sea turtles, which usually die from asphyxiation in the nets.