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The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) has partnered with local shrimp fishing industry ITTICA Limited and ALPHA Limited to evaluate the Turtle Excluder Device (TED) as an additional component of their trawl nets to save turtles and other large species mainly sharks and rays from being accidently caught in the trawls. Preparation and execution of the trials were done between the 7th of April and ended on May 3rd 2018. The project BY-Catch Assessment and Mitigation in Western Indian Ocean Fisheries (BYCAM) https://bycamwio.weebly.com/ is financed by the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and is aimed at promoting the reduction of undesired catch in fisheries by assessing and testing innovative technologies in fisheries of the region. 

For the project Tony Nalovic, a shrimp trawl fishing gear expert from French Guiana was hired to help build the aluminium grids called TEDs that would be inserted and tested in the trawls of the Fishing Vessel Roberto. The F/V Roberto was availed by Mr. Basta Alessandro, the proprietor of ITTICA Limited. In his statement during the closing meeting Mr. Basta said, “Anything we can do to help the administration to achieve their sustainable development objectives is a plus for us, and we don’t eat the turtles so it’s good by me if we can get gear that works on turtles without reducing production.” 

The design team at Southern Engineering Company Limited (SECO), did a great job manufacturing the TEDs using specifications provided by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) of the USA. With this properly designed gear, KMFRI was able to properly evaluate the technology to see if it would reduce production of the target prawns and fish, while avoiding the capture of sea turtles. The preliminary results of the at-sea experiment show that the TEDs do not reduce the catch of shrimp and fish, and has the potential to completely eliminate the capture of large marines fauna such as turtles, sharks and rays.

Dr. Edward Kimani, the Assistant Director in charge of Marine Fisheries Research at KMFRI and responsible for the Kenya TED project said the benefits of the programme was multi-faceted. Kenya now has gained expertise to build our own quality TEDs locally, and demonstrated that TEDs can be used without any loss of target catch. One of our researchers, Mr. Rashid Anam was trained to conduct experiments of this type at sea.

The reduction of large sharks and rays potentially improves fishing efficiency, by reducing the weight in the trawl net, and sorting time on deck. KMFRI has also reinforced its linkages with industry on a project that could be beneficial to not only Kenya but other countries in the WIO region with prawn shrimp trawlers. Indeed, the global market landscape is changing, consumers are increasingly leaning towards sustainably fished products. The EU TED report available at www.rapporttedeu.com shows that the EU may soon be moving towards an import ban on tropical shrimp not captured with TEDs like the US did 30 or so years ago.  With this project our industry stays on the cutting edge of developing its blue economy and could be a model in the region.