BARNEGAT LIGHT — To the untrained eye, the big rust-colored steel triangles don’t look all that different from dredges that have been harvesting American sea scallops for a half-century.
In fact the new turtle deflector dredge, or TDD, totally reworks the layout of the traditional New Bedford scallop dredge to eliminate accidental capture of sea turtles – promising to finally resolve a years-long debate over how to best protect those threatened and endangered species.
Where the old-style dredges have a flat front with two plates to scoop up scallops, TDD designer Ronald Smolowitz and his team realigned the front end to an angle and eliminated gaps in the frame where turtles could get lodged, creating something like the cow catcher on an Old West steam locomotive.
“The industry had to do it. Solved our problem,” said James Gutowski of the Viking Village scallop boat fleet, which worked for years with Smolowitz to learn about turtles, particularly loggerheads, and how they interact with scallop gear.
“It does a great job of pushing the turtle up and out of harm’s way,” said Gib Brogan of Oceana, an environmental group that for years has pushed to reduce accidental turtle deaths and injuries from fishing gear. “This is a great example of the fishing industry stepping up and doing the right thing for the turtles and for themselves