WWF calls on European Union Member States and consumers to take action to save tens of thousands of marine turtles each year

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16 June 2017

Gland, Switzerland: Today on World Sea Turtle Day, WWF is calling on European Union Member State governments and consumers to immediately take action to protect marine turtles. According to a report by the French Guiana Fisheries Committee, publicly launched today, tens of thousands of threatened marine turtles are potentially killed each year in trawls for shrimp destined for the EU.

The report, Wild-caught tropical shrimp imports into the EU & associated impacts on marine turtle populations: the need for EU import restrictions, points to Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) as a simple and effective solution that could reduce turtle bycatch by up to 97 per cent with minimal shrimp catch loss.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), bycatch – the unwanted catch in commercial fishing gear – poses the single most serious threat to marine turtles worldwide. Marine turtles play a key role in marine ecosystems by, among other things, maintaining the health of sea grasses and coral reefs.

“Each year, some 29,000 marine turtles are potentially killed in shrimp trawls that export to the EU. European Union Member States and the Commission can stop this happening by insisting on tighter import controls through the use of Turtle Excluder Devices on all tropical shrimp fisheries. In addition, consumers can demand sustainable shrimp on their supermarket shelves and apply public pressure to require TED implementation,” said Aimee Leslie, Global Cetacean and Marine Turtle Leader for WWF.

Simple to use, TEDs have also been shown to prevent crushing of shrimp, increasing profitability for fisheries, among other benefits. Many source countries already require TEDs in their legislation, but are not yet implementing them. The EU Member States can improve implementation by requiring TEDs on tropical shrimp imports into their markets.

“Turtle Excluder Devices are a win-win. They protect our oceans’ wildlife and also benefit fisheries,” added Leslie.

WWF highlights that the future of many of the world’s marine turtle populations rests on reforming the tropical shrimp production system across the value chain. A shift in global consciousness on the consumption of shrimp from fisheries implicated in marine turtle bycatch is essential.

Alongside European consumers, WWF is calling upon all actors, from the tropical shrimp fisheries right up to national governments, and the European Commission, to demonstrate their commitment to helping secure a permanent place for sea turtles in the global marine ecosystem.

“The tropical shrimp fishing industry has a devastating effect on the survival of marine turtles but solutions do exist. European Union Member State governments must come together with consumers, retailers, conservation organizations and tropical shrimp source countries to implement measures that eliminate the incidental capture of marine turtles,” said Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.”