The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2018 Finalist

Fishing Industry Incentives for Turtle Conservation

Fishing Industry Incentives for Turtle Conservation

Marine Research Foundation’s (MRF) project seeks to broker relationships between leading hotel chains and shrimp fishers to catch turtle-free shrimp.

Shrimp trawl fisheries have been identified as one of the leading causes of sea turtle declines in Malaysia, and around the world. Despite on-going protection of nesting beaches, transfer of eggs to hatcheries and awareness campaigns, Malaysian sea turtles continue to face worrying declines. MRF and the Department of Fisheries Malaysia believe that the reduction of the by-catch of sea turtles is a critical step in ensuring their survival in the country.

Large numbers of sea turtles are killed by shrimp trawl fishers in developing countries each year. The use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) can reduce turtle catch by more than 98 percent, but fishers remain sceptical about their use for fear of losing catches. TEDs also reduce fuel costs (less unwanted material in the nets), increase product value (less damage to shrimp) and reduce down-time (less damage to the net). The major problem with uptake is not their functionality, but their perceived functionality, coupled with lack of incentives for use.

MRF’s goal is to reduce the incidental capture and mortality of sea turtles in Malaysia by educating and incentivising fishing communities to use TEDs. Their plan is to link fishers with international hotel chains that are keen to promote the use of sustainable seafood, particularly turtle-free shrimp. They will pay a small premium to fishers (in addition to the cost of the shrimp) for them to supply sustainable seafood to the hotels, enhancing the image of the fisher and the end-buyer.

Long-term solutions to sustainable fishing lie in the hands of fishermen, buyers and consumers. Some people find it economically challenging to make choices based on environmental efforts, just as businesses do not waste capital on unsuccessful ventures. By bridging the two ends of the spectrum, MRF aims to incentivise fishermen and satisfy consumers.

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