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NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Fishing To Avoid Interactions

Marine Fisheries



The Division of Marine Fisheries has also explored using stakes in gill nets to replace buoys.

Many times, when sea turtles are found in gill nets, they are found near the buoys. Fishermen also will tell you that a sea turtle will go down a line from a buoy to get to a crab pot, Brown said.   

This has caused some to wonder if buoys attract sea turtles in some way, but much research is needed to know for sure.

“They’re not the smartest creatures on the earth, but they can learn and I do think they probably cue in on the buoys in some way or other,” Brown said.

Federal authorities are also researching gear modifications for different fisheries in North Carolina under the National Marine Fisheries Service Strategy for Sea Turtle Conservation and Recovery in Relation to Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fisheries.

Jeff Gearhart, research fisheries biologist with National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center Mississippi Laboratory Harvesting and Engineering Branch, has been working with North Carolina fishermen to develop and perfect prototypes for turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in the flynet fishery.

Biologists with the National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center have conducted similar research on TEDs for flounder trawls and scallop trawls.

The National Marine Fisheries Service may propose a federal rule to require TEDs in flynets, flounder trawls and scallop trawls as early as next year, Gearhart said.

Gearhart has also worked with seven North Carolina fishing boats in the Swansboro and North River areas to test different configurations of TEDs in skimmer trawls.

Next year, Gearhart plans a gill net illumination study for Core Sound.

He hopes to replicate a similar study with gill nets in the Pacific halibut fishery off the west coast of Mexico that achieved a 40 percent reduction in green turtle takes.

“It involves putting lights on gill nets at spaced intervals throughout the net,” Gearhart said.

The research was originally scheduled to begin this year, but the permitting process was delayed because the National Marine Fisheries Service was involved in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is also research going on in nearby states, Brown said.

In Virginia, there has been research on using rope instead of mesh on the top half of the lead of a pound net to reduce sea turtle entanglements.

There have also been tests on using deflector panels on the side in the pound net lead, Brown said.

Below are some steps commercial fishermen should take if they find a sea turtle in their nets.

If the turtle is acting healthy, release it in an area away from fishing gear. If a state or federal observer is on board, there will also be tagging requirements.

If the turtle is lethargic or comatose, call one of the following numbers to arrange transport of the sea turtle to a rehabilitation center: 

  • N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Strandings Hot Line at 252-247-8117
  • N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries at 800-682-2632;
  • N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores at 252-247-4003; or
  • Network for Endangered Sea Turtles at 252-241-7367.

For more information on sea turtle release protocols from the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center, go to: 
http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/2008%20Updated%20Sea%20Turtle%20Release%20Protocols.pdf

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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