Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards for Vision
The Marine Research Foundation, a small nonprofit based in Malaysia, successfully campaigned to get turtle excluder devices (TEDs) trialed and recognized by the government, extensively rolled out among fisher communities, and legally required in shrimp trawl fishing in Malaysia.
The Marine Research Foundation’s bycatch assessment work in the mid-2000s indicated that more than 4,000 turtles were dying each year in Sabah alone. Countrywide estimates were approximately double that number. Shrimp fishing was largely the cause. The Malaysian Fisheries Department had no bycatch reduction efforts planned, and turtles were dwindling: The leatherback went locally extinct. So did the Olive Ridley. Green turtles were declining in all but one location.
The foundation used a variety of tactics: awareness videos in multiple languages, GoPro video, study tours for fishers, and site visits for fisheries officials. They even developed the TEDCam to wirelessly live stream from the TED to the vessel bridge, and they helped Malaysian fishers design their own TED.
The Marine Research Foundation worked alongside the government, having key officials on board from the very beginning, and staged site visits. This approach paid off within 10 years.
This accomplishment is all the more impressive as it came on the heels of Malaysia taking the U.S. to the World Trade Organization courts over its requirements for TEDs. Malaysia won, and the subsequent U.S. appeal failed; but the U.S. convinced the WTO to uphold the requirement, resulting in a powerful backlash in Malaysia. Undaunted by the magnitude of the challenge, the Marine Research Foundation took a collaborative approach to eventually win support for Malaysia’s current program. They trained the government to lead and implement the program, and worked to get third-party monitoring via the US PL 609 Certification process.
Full rollout of TEDs across Malaysia’s 1,500-plus trawl vessels will save an estimated 4,000 endangered sea turtles a year, while making Malaysia’s shrimp fishing industry more sustainable.