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Shrimping device long time coming
[June 22, 2012]

Shrimping device long time coming

Jun 22, 2012 (The Brunswick News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A turtle excluder device invented by a Darien man 44 years ago is newly exciting conservationists, as well as defying logic.

It was no surprise when a study determined that the Boone Big Boy turtle excluder device reduced the accidental capture in shrimp nets of sea turtles, finfish, sharks, rays and ecologically important invertebrates, such as horseshoe crabs.

The Boone device, with grid bars spaced two inches apart and larger escape hole, reduced unintended by-catch by 46.6 percent. The industry standard for a turtle excluder device, or TED, calls for a grid of bars spaced four inches apart.

The surprise came during 88 hours of test trawls when more shrimp were caught in nets with the Boone TED than in a net with a standard one, said Lisa Liguori, associate director of the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service in Brunswick.

"This TED was created by a shrimper with a brilliant mind for underwater engineering," she said. "In our study, we saw a dramatic reduction in by-catch, and this TED did not lose shrimp. It actually caught slightly more." Now the Boone Big Boy excluder device has finally won approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for use by shrimpers.

Howell Boone said his father, the late Sinkey Boone, was unable to get approval for his invention because regulators said his design didn't meet their specifications.

Boone said his father insisted that his invention was superior to what was approved for the shrimp industry and refused to make the modifications regulators required for approval. Sinkey Boone died two years ago and never saw his invention approved by regulators.

Liguori said shrimpers who have used the Boone TED are reporting similar results as the test trawls.

"This is a sign of a truly great conservation device," she said. "It was developed by a member of the industry and is being tested under real conditions by commercial shrimpers because shrimpers are taking the initiative." Boone is selling nets for $400, just slightly more than the TED, considered to be the industry standard. It can be sewn directly into an existing net.

But Boone doesn't expect TED sales will allow him to quit his job as a shrimper, even though there is interest in the invention from as far as Texas and California. "There's not that many shrimpers left," he said.

Liguori said there are no plans to make the newly approved TED mandatory, but she said more will be used voluntarily by shrimpers because it will increase their profits.

The Boone TED saves money because crews spend less time removing by-catch, which reduces a net's capacity to hold shrimp. By-catch such as jelly balls and blue crabs kills or damages shrimp in the nets, Boone said.

It will also help with the recovery of species such as sharks, sea turtles and horseshoe crabs that have been impacted by nets in the past, Boone said.

"In the ocean, everything feeds on everything else," he said. "If you throw off the balance, you can't repair it. This TED gives the ocean the chance it's been needing." ___ (c)2012 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) Visit The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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