News & Insights

Less Shrimp For Louisiana Following Recent Regulation

On August 11, 2021, Louisiana’s Attorney General filed a complaint against the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS) to prevent implementation of recent regulations amending 50 C.F.R. § 223 related to sea turtle conservation. Louisiana State v. Department of Commerce et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 2:21-cv-01523.  The new rule requires certain shrimp fisherman to install a device on their fishing nets to help prevent the incidental bycatch of endangered sea turtles. Sea Turtle Conservation; Shrimp Trawling Requirements, 84 Fed. Reg. 70,048 (Dec. 20, 2019) (to be codified at (to be codified at 50 C.F.R. § 223).

The rule requires all skimmer trawl vessels that are greater than 40 feet in length and operate in the Southeastern United States to install turtle excluder devices (“TEDs”).   TEDs are made of metal bars and mesh that fit inside the neck of a trawl net. It allows shrimp to pass between the bars to the back of the net, while turtles and larger animals bump against the metal grid and escape through a flap in the mesh.  The rule took effect on August 1, 2021, about one week before Louisiana’s fall shrimp season.

The original effective date was to be April 1, 2021.  The NMFS believed “delaying the effectiveness of the rule until April 1, 2021 [was] warranted . . . to allow for the manufacture of the necessary number of TEDs and for fishers, particularly lower income fishers, to financially prepare for the regulation.”  The effective data was delayed further to August 1, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The complaint alleges the NMFS regulation will have devastating consequences on Louisiana fisherman.  According to the complaint, skimmer trawlers represent a “significant portion” of Louisiana’s fishing fleet and due to supply chain disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, fisherman have had difficulty locating enough suppliers of TEDs.  The complaint states that shrimpers who fail to comply with the regulation risk a $10,000.00 fine

Louisiana’s Attorney General, Jeff Landry, claims the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements for reasoned decision-making and the NMFS acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to postpone the effective date of the rule.  He also claims the rule “does not make sense” for inshore waters because data shows sea turtles do not live there. 

According to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, shrimp fishing accounts for 15,000 jobs in the state and has an annual impact of $1.3 billion.  The regulation will have a significant impact on Louisiana’s economy if non-compliant shrimpers are forced to miss the fall shrimp season.  On the other hand, the NMFS anticipates the regulation will result in a conservation benefit of 801 to 1,168 sea turtles annually in the Southeastern U.S. shrimp fisheries.