Sustainable Management of Bycatch in Latin America and Caribbean Trawl Fisheries (REBYC-II LAC)

Tackling sea turtle bycatch in groundfish trawl fisheries in Suriname

Unwanted bycatch of sea turtles remains a problem in various types of fisheries in Suriname. Although all sea turtle’s species are protected under national legislation, they often end up being caught in the nets of trawlers or driftnet boats fishing off the coast. Data collected by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guianas show that the numbers of sea turtles in the region have been declining dramatically in recent years. This is becoming a problem because the shelf waters and beaches of the Guianas are of great importance for the world populations of sea turtles, notably the leatherback turtle. Declining turtle populations could also threaten local livelihoods, as thousands of tourists visit the nesting beaches along the Suriname coast every year, generating income for coastal communities.


To address sea turtle bycatch, the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) is mandatory on all trawlers targeting seabob Xiphopenaes kroyeri and Penaeus shrimp in Surinamese waters. Shrimp TEDs are highly effective, reducing turtle bycatch on average by 97%. However, TEDs are specifically developed for shrimp trawlers, while Suriname also has a substantial fleet of trawlers targeting groundfish. Implementation of TEDs in the fish trawl fleet is challenging as the operational and gear characteristics of this fleet are very different from shrimp trawlers.


For some years now the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Husbandry and Fisheries has been working on developing and testing TEDs for the fish trawl fleet. This has been done in collaboration with the fishing industry, technical support from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in the USA and with financial support from WWF Guianas and the regional GEF-FAO REBYC-II LAC project “Sustainable management of Bycatch in Latin America and Caribbean Trawl Fisheries”. In this partnership, various tests have been conducted in the recent years with prototype TEDs on fish trawlers.


On Thursday the 27th of February 2020, the results of several years of development and testing were presented to stakeholders in the Suriname fish trawl industry. The development of the TED over the past years was shown using videos, photos and the results of experimental sea trials. After a difficult start, the test results of the most recent prototype are very positive. The TED which has been developed ensures that turtles are able to escape from the nets without having a negative effect on the catch of the targeted species such as weakfishes, grunts, snappers, etc. In addition, some unwanted bycatch is also excluded from the nets when using the TED, especially stingrays. The fish trawl TED has been developed in collaboration with NOAA and is a flexible design consisting of stainless-steel cable secured into 12 mm webbing.


During the meeting, fishing sector representatives expressed concern over the costs involved and availability of expertise and materials. Valid concerns, which are to be addressed further by the Fisheries Department. In general, however, the industry was positive about the developments and the future implementation of TEDs. In consultation with the fishing sector, a plan with timeline will be developed to guide the introduction and implementation of TEDs in the groundfish trawling fleet in Suriname.