NOAA's lawyers said they had issued 34 notices of violation to shrimpers. Issuing a notice of violation is an important step in seeking to fine a shrimper, Campbell said. The agency declined to disclose the names of shrimpers facing fines, saying the shrimpers had 30 days to respond to the notices.
The fines in these cases could range from $2,500 to $23,000 based on how many violations the shrimpers were cited for and whether they were repeat offenders.
Since January, 468 sea turtles have been found dead along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts, NOAA said. The crackdown on shrimpers was prompted by concerns that the spike in turtle deaths was linked to the shrimp industry, a link shrimpers deny. In August, federal marine biologists said many turtles were dying during periods when shrimpers were not working, a finding that vindicated shrimpers' arguments.
Clint Guidry, the head of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, said NOAA's move to go after shrimpers was wrongheaded. His group represents fishermen.
"I think they're going after the wrong guys," he said. "Most fishermen don't agree with the regulations."
Not all shrimpers agree with that sentiment. John Williams, the head of the Southern Shrimp Alliance, a group of fishermen, processors and distributors, applauded the crackdown and said shrimpers who violate sea turtle gear rules "put a black mark" on the industry.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, don't believe NOAA is doing enough - not even after a