BILOXI, Miss. — A hostile crowd of about 150 shrimpers said Wednesday that they’re doing all that is reasonable to save sea turtles, accusing the national fisheries service of faking data and falsely blaming the fishermen of drowning the marine reptiles.
Four environmental groups have threatened to sue the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state agencies unless they act quickly to stop surges in turtle deaths along the Gulf Coast since last year’s oil spill. NOAA is getting public comment on what, if anything, needs to be done.
“Who’s going to be on our side?” Lorrie Williams of Ocean Springs asked Michael Barnette of NOAA’s Fisheries Service at a meeting in Biloxi.
Frequently interrupted by shouted questions like “Do you believe all this stuff?” Barnette had said many turtles dissected since the start of last year’s BP spill showed no sign of oil and apparently drowned near the sea floor. He said shrimp trawls were a possible cause of their deaths, especially for those found after a brief trawling season as BP’s oil was heading toward shore in spring 2010.