Deadliest Catch

This morning, I was contacted by a PhD student at William and Mary who is studying diamondback terrapins (a type of turtle that lives in salt marshes) and expressed interest in using some of my illustrations in a pamphlet for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  Diamondback terrapins, which thrive in brackish water, live in the coastal marshes of many states on the Atlantic Coast (at least Georgia through New Jersey, and perhaps their range is bigger than that).  They are currently threatened by crab fishing in many of these places where it is legal for coastal homeowners to do a small amount of crab fishing from their property.  Since crabs are similar in size to terrapins, the pots used to trap craps often trap terrapins as bycatch.  Since terrapins, unlike crabs, cannot breathe underwater, they drown if the pot is left underwater too long.

The solution is a device called a TED (Terrapin Excluder Device, Turtle Excluder Device, or BRD: Bycatch Reduction Device, depending on who you ask).  It is a rectangle made out of plastic or metal wire, which is installed in the opening of a crab pot.  Theoretically, it is wide enough to allow a crab to pass through, but too narrow for a terrapin.  Thus, it saves terrapins.

My favorite project, while working at the National Aquarium as an intern last fall, was creating a brochure panel which demonstrated the installation of a TED.  It is intended to teach coastal residents how they can save some turtles, and eat some crabs, too.  It can now be found on the website of the Maryland DNR and the illustrations will soon be part of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s poster on terrapins.  Just glad I can help save some turtles!

Here’s that brochure panel, and some of my other nearly-forgotten work:

One comment

  1. SassyM

    This is really interesting. I feel like Science Fridays with Ira Plato on NPR should do a story about this. There are so many things people can do to make something better. And cool that you got some more work out there!

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