Area shrimpers upset about Oceana report - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Area shrimpers upset about Oceana report

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ST. HELENA ISLAND, SC (WTOC) -

It's been a tough couple of weeks for shrimpers in the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire.

Quite a few of them are upset with a new report issued by Oceana, a nonprofit marine life advocacy group.

The report claims commercial shrimpers are accidentally catching and killing tons of marine animals along with shrimp.

But the shrimpers, like Craig Reaves, say the report is not true, and it could potentially hurt their business.

Reaves owns Sea Eagle Market and has been shrimping since 1985.

"The industry was a lot stronger in the ‘80s than it is today," he said.

And things were a lot different. According to Reaves, a lot more bycatch was getting caught in nets and killed by fishermen and shrimpers who were after certain types of seafood. 

But that's no longer the case today, according to Reaves and his colleague James Budi. They said  thanks to new inventions  like turtle excluding devices, they're not catching anything other than shrimp.

"They document this with cameras in the nets. It's a proven fact that turtles enter the net and escape through the turtle excluding device," Reaves said. "Not only turtles, but flounder, horseshoe crabs and jelly balls. A turtle enters the net and exits in less than 30 seconds. "

But a report issued by Oceana paints a much different picture. According to the report, which is based on data collected by the federal government, 17 to 22 percent of the marine life caught by fishermen is discarded each year.

In 2012, the national marine fisheries service estimated that up to 50,000 sea turtles in the region could be killed annually by shrimpers.

"Well, that's just not true," said Reaves.

He insists the new equipment makes it impossible for them to kill that many turtles.

"All fishermen were attacked by Oceana's report," said James Budi.

 Oceana said they're not saying this is true for all shrimpers and fishermen.

 "I don't doubt that there are fishermen that do things better than the boat that's next to them," said Gilbert Brogan.

 Brogan said Oceana just wants to show that there is need for improvement.

 But for Reaves, he's just wondering, how many sacrifices will he have to make?

"Our families have sacrificed, our industry has sacrificed," he said, "And we can't get so much as a thank you."

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