Sea turtles protected under the U.S Endangered Species Act and incidental capture in trawls made illegal.
This was further confounded by the introduction of the US TED-compliant embargo, following which Malaysia, Thailand, India and Pakistan jointly and successfully contested the requirement of TEDs for shrimp trade with the US through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) policy and so were allowed to continue to fish without TEDs.
1999 - 2006
Eventually the US certification requirement prevailed and countries that continued in the shrimp trade had to comply with TED regulations. However the enforcement capacity in Malaysia was limited by funding and equipment and without enforcement the TED could not made mandatory.
Shrimp trawl fisheries were identified as one of the leading causes of sea turtle declines in Malaysia with an estimated 2-3000 turtles killed in shrimp trawl fishing every year in Sabah alone. Despite protection on nesting beaches, egg hatcheries and awareness campaigns, Malaysian sea turtles continued to face worrying declines.
MRF and the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DOFM) decided reducing the by-catch of sea turtles was critical in ensuring the survival of sea turtles in the country.
With funding from Malaysia’s Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Program (GEF/SGP) MRF conducted trials in a voluntary manner in the Shrimp trawl fisheries in Sandakan. With full support from the Department of fisheries Malaysia and in collaboration with the Sabah Fishing Boat Owners Association.
- Training outreach by the US to allow other countries to comply with TED provisions as this related to the exportation of shrimp from Malaysia to the US
Educate policy makers
Provide a voluntary adoption process for a limited period
Then push for regulatory compliance.
MRF conducted a site visit to the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) with four fishers and two officers from the Sabah Fisheries Department.The trip was extremely successful and provided a major boost to the TED program.
A video was developed to increase exposure, fisherman-fisherman interactions and awareness of TED mechanics.
Following substantial fisher input for the first Malaysia TED, the technical support and encouragement provided by NMFS and MRF led to the modification of a super-shooter TED, allowing the capture of stingrays, a highly valued catch. The new TED design incorporates a four inch (10cm) horizontal bar curved at the bottom of the vertical grids allowing bottom dwelling rays between 50-60cm wide to pass through while still excluding turtles.
MRF conducted another site visit to the USA to work with NOAA NMFS officers in and the Director General of the DOFM from Malaysia to witness the Malaysia TED undergoing NMFS’s controlled trials test and certification process.
A total of 25 sea turtles were tested and all 25 escaped well short of the allotted time limit, with an average time from release to escape at 01:14. This visit also provided the opportunity for discussions on possible collaboration in the future between the US and Malaysia’s DOFM.
MRF began to broaden its workshop and in June 2015 a total of 96 participants including 53 fishermen from Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Sarikei and Mukah attended as well as 43 DOFM officers.
- The workshop gave an introduction to TEDs, Malaysia TED studies and the implementation plan for Malaysia. these workshops also gave opportunity for a dialogue between fishermen, officers and researchers.
- Fishermen were shown TED insertion and extension and were taken to sea to compare differences between trawls with and without TEDs.
By November 2016 all 194 shrimp trawlers on the east coast will be using TEDs
Sabah the challenge is far greater: some 500 trawlers and only 60 or so have TEDs so far. But these 40 TEDs, which represent only ~10% of the fleet, are saving some 230 to 310 turtles each year.
The future for TEDs in Malaysia
TEDs will become compulsory on Shrimp trawlers on the east coast of Peninsular during the monsoon, from November until March. The Fisheries Department will introduce a regulation requiring use of TEDs before fishermen can be issued permits for monsoon shrimp trawling,
The monsoon season is when shrimps are abundant and when shrimp trawlers get special permits to fish inshore, areas where turtles are usually found. (Outside of the monsoon season, fishermen can only trawl beyond five nautical miles from shore.) The TED ruling will eventually be implemented nation-wide.