Getting technology to solve sustainability challenges takes more than just smart ideas. It sometimes takes cajoling, patience, and sharp elbows. Take the turtle exclusion devices--called TEDs--which are specially designed metal gates that keep sea turtles out of shrimp nets. In 1985, there were only roughly 700 nests left in the Atlantic Kemp's Ridley turtle's Gulf of Mexico habitat.
To save the endangered species, the government forced fishers to use the TEDs despite much resistance; industry said the devices were unwieldy and reduced the number of shrimp they caught in nets. But in the years since, fishers have come to accept TEDs, having themselves helped improve their designs. The shrimp industry now even helps preserve beaches and support biology to preserve turtles. So how did TEDs eventually win over reticent fishermen?
Certain popular TEDs came from local inventors, said Lekelia Jenkins of Duke University. She gave a talk at AAAS about how technology to reduce so-called bycatch had made its way into boats. Local radio shows to which fishermen listened had sway as well. And Gary Graham, a professor and fisheries specialist with Texas Sea Grant College Program, has helped push videos to show fishing crews how to use the devices. "You guys are going to watch some X-rated movies," he tells the crews. "You might as well put something in that's educational."
There's the meetings too. "Councils, councils, councils--we need to work with [local fishing] councils," an earnest Washington bureaucrat with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) told the crowd. But Graham described how several sitdowns with similar NMFS officials over TEDs in the 1990's had been "very tense." "Don't take it out on the NMFS guy," Graham said he told his fishermen colleagues. "You know, back off." By 2005, the species had rebounded with 10,000 counted nests, and TEDs have improved so that they barely hurt shrimp counts at all.