NOAA's theory: Shrimpers at fault in sea turtles' death

July 14, 2011 

BILOXI -- NOAA’s theory that shrimpers are to blame for almost 1,000 sea-turtle deaths since the BP oil spill unleashed a fury of comments in two languages Wednesday.

Mark Barnette, NOAA’s representative at a meeting on the topic in Biloxi, wasn’t sure how to handle the response, especially from Vietnamese shrimpers. He didn’t have an interpreter.

Comments were coming at him before he’d even finished his slide presentation.

NOAA was seeking input at the meeting on plans to change turtle-excluder regulations in response to the absurdly high number of dead sea turtles washing up on the northern Gulf beaches -- 600 last year and 400 so far this year.

Turtle excluders are devices built into shrimp nets that give the turtles a chance to escape the nets.

Barnette said NOAA, in a test, boarded 44 boats in Louisiana and Mississippi and found only three with properly functioning devices.

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