IMMS worried outdated NOAA regulations will hurt fishing industry

Dr. Andy Coleman, Jonathan Pitchford, and Dr. Moby Solangi look on as a Kemps-Ridley sea turtle recovers
Dr. Andy Coleman, Jonathan Pitchford, and Dr. Moby Solangi look on as a Kemps-Ridley sea turtle recovers
Hooks found in sea turtles
Hooks found in sea turtles
X-ray of Kemps-Ridley before surgery
X-ray of Kemps-Ridley before surgery

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The people who help rehab injured marine life say outdated NOAA regulations could hurt the fishing industry on the Coast. Several hurricane damaged fishing piers in Gulfport will not be repaired until a study is done to determine whether fishing off those piers will negatively impact Kemps Ridley and Loggerhead sea turtles.

Now, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is speaking up saying there is more to the story.

On the surface, the problem seems simple. The piers can't be rebuilt because of environmental studies being done. Now, there's another strand of the story unraveling.

Since the 2010 oil spill, IMMS has worked to help creatures like the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle recover and be released back to the water. Dr. Moby Solangi is the President of IMMS.

"We should not be penalized for saving these animals," said Solangi.

He also said that NOAA's archaic rules are going to hurt the commercial and recreational fishermen.

Robert Henderson, who's been fishing the gulf waters for 50 years, agrees.

"Fishing is a big thing down here, and if they can't fish they're going to go elsewhere," said Henderson.

Right now, federal rules limit how many turtles can be caught per fishing pier. Solangi says once that number is reached, NOAA wants that pier closed to fishing.

"We feel that if an animal is taken, rehabbed and put back, it should be accounted for," said Solangi.

NOAA doesn't give credit for the rehabs, and ecologist Dr. Andy Coleman says it should take note of this work.

"Mississippi is really on the forefront of this issue, so what we're doing here can be possibly applied to other areas," said Coleman.

Mississippi is currently the only state on the Gulf Coast that has a registered rehab program. The irony of that is Mississippi is the only Gulf Coast state to actually report turtle captures.

Another concern of IMMS was about where the regulations stop. Solangi wondered if a turtle is caught by a person on a boat, will NOAA count that as well. The hope is that re-released sea turtles will start counting against the ones caught.

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