Can President Obama (with the help of TED) Save Sea Turtles?

You bet he can.

Who is TED, you ask? Well, TED is not a person but a nifty device invented to help save sea turtles from getting caught in shrimping nets and drowning. TED stands for turtle excluder device and it is probably one of sea turtles’ best friends in the world.

Turtle excluder devices are specialized metal grates inserted in trawl nets that allow captured sea turtles to escape. The government has required TEDs on certain shrimp boats for more than 20 years, but other boats do not need to have them, even though TEDs are 97% effective at saving sea turtles.

OMG founders Olivia (left) and her brother Carter showing how a TED actually saves sea turtles. Photo provided by

You see, here’s the problem: The U.S. government estimates that more than 50,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles are needlessly killed every year by certain shrimp trawl-fishing boats in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Right now, some boats are not required to use TEDs, meaning that sea turtles can drown in these nets.

We want to see more efforts by our government to support the development of TEDs designed specifically for these boats. Currently, there are some efforts to resolve the issue but there needs to be a significant increase in this field if we are to resolve this problem successfully.

Olivia meets with Michel A. Nalovic (Tony), one of the world’s foremost experts on TEDs, on a video conference call. Photo provided by

During my investigation on the subject of TEDs, I was introduced to Michel A. Nalovic (a.k.a. Tony), a research fisheries biologist with CRPMEM Guyane (Comité Régional des Pêches Maritimes et des Elevages Marins de Guyanein), which stands for ‘Regional Committee of Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Marine’ in French Guiana.

Tony is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on TEDs—he actually wrote his thesis on the effectiveness of TEDs with an emphasis on the effects TEDs have in the preservation of the blacknose sharks. I managed to set up a Skype call with Tony and I am so glad I did. He is amazing and his knowledge and passion for wanting to save as many marine creatures as possible is immediately obvious. Tony spent the time to look over our entire campaign and was instrumental in assuring our campaign would have the best possible outcome.

Here is a great ‘one-pager’ on TEDs and sea turtles, which you can print out and share with your students: Kids Fact Sheet.

And here is a presentation you can share with your classrooms and friends:

Downloadable Sea Turtle Presentation

How a TED works
This diagram shows how inserting a TED device in the net allows sea turtles and other bycatch to escape. Illustration provided by

We here at OMG (One More Generation) have joined our friends at OCEANA to reach out to educators and children across the country in an effort to get students to engage in a letter-writing campaign that would bring about real change for endangered and threatened sea turtles in U.S. waters.

We hope we can count on your help to get as many letters and pictures to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker calling on the government to take action.

We ask that your students write a letter or draw a picture telling President Obama and Secretary Pritzker why they love sea turtles and think that they should be protected in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. This letter-writing campaign will not only help these majestic animals, but also provides an opportunity for students to learn about issues facing the oceans and to use their persuasive writing skills to influence policy.

The links below will allow you to download the template letter and the template coloring page (for our younger changemakers).


Sea Turtle Campaign Template Letter

Sea Turtle Coloring Page

Sea Turtle Coloring Page

One More Generation and OCEANA will collect these letters and deliver them to the Obama administration on World Sea Turtle Day (June 16, 2016). Please send your letters no later than May 23, 2016 to either of the addresses listed below. Letters may be mailed or even scanned and emailed to the following addresses:

What species of sea turtles are impacted? Six species of sea turtles swim in U.S. waters: green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, loggerhead sea turtles and olive ridley sea turtles. Each of these species is endangered or threatened. Five of the six sea turtle species regularly interact with shrimp trawls in the southeast and many become victims of nets without TEDs.

A TED helps this loggerhead hatchling escape. Photo provided by Oceana

Thank you for your time and assistance in this effort. Please feel free to contact me at with any questions or requests for more information.

For the oceans,




Stay tuned to my next article titled Snake Conservation Goes Hollywood to learn about several snake superheroes we recently interviewed and how they are truly making a difference.

Olivia Ries is our National Geographic Education youth empowerment writer. Together with her brother Carter, she hopes to inspire others to realize that “Anybody can make a difference . . . if they can, you can too.” Make sure to check out their website at

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