Trawlers are used to capture sea turtles near dredge ships. Flickr

NC - BOEM engages crowdsourcing firm to learn about sea turtles caught and relocated in ocean dredging projects

WASHINGTON, D. C. — The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and a private company are partnering in a crowdsourcing effort to better understand and hopefully improve the success of relocation of sea turtles caught in protective trawling efforts during offshore dredging operations, which in Carteret County are usually associated with Bogue Banks beach nourishment projects.

According to a news release Monday, HeroX, a leading platform and open marketplace for crowdsourced solutions, has launched the effort, called “Better Call Trawl.”

The competition invites data scientists and engineers, statisticians and scientists to analyze the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) data, evaluate the effectiveness of current sea turtle relocation trawling practices, and develop an analytical tool that can help improve future protection efforts. The challenge will award up to $40,000 in prizes for top solutions.

In Carteret County’s beach nourishment projects, a trawler or trawlers are used in front of dredge vessels that scoop up sand from a site off Atlantic Beach to place on beaches. The federal government requires that effort to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles and can halt projects if too many turtles are imperiled or killed.

BOEM is responsible for managing the nation’s offshore energy and mineral resources in an environmentally responsible way.

According to the news release, BOEM Bureau helps address the ongoing erosion of America’s beaches by authorizing dredging in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to collect sand from the ocean floor for coastal restoration and beach replenishment.

“However,” the release states, “sea turtles near the seabed are at risk of being caught in these dredges and injured, often lethally. To reduce the risk to these federally protected species, specialized trawling vessels are contracted to safely catch and relocate turtles away from the areas before and during dredging operations.

However, the release adds, little is known about how effective current relocation efforts are in preventing harm to sea turtles and what opportunities may exist for improvements”

“BOEM is committed to mitigating beach erosion by authorizing the use of OCS sand for coastal restoration and beach replenishment projects, but we must consider and balance the risk to federally protected sea turtle species in our decisions,” said Doug Piatkowski, a BOEM marine biologist.

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