Saving sea turtles aim of new ‘Better Call Trawl’ Challenge

fwc fwri green sea turtle
There may be up to six prize winners, but the grand prize winner will receive $15,000.

Dredging is necessary to keep ports open and renourish beaches, but these actions are dangerous for endangered sea turtles that have nested on our beaches for generations.

With an eye toward coexistence, HeroX — a crowdsourcing solutions platform — and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) are teaming up to figure out how to do the job better.

It’s called the “Better Call Trawl” Challenge, putting out the call to the public to figure out how effective current relocation trawling methods are at protecting sea turtles from dredging operations.

Competitors are asked to use BOEM data to evaluate the program and develop an analytical tool to assist in the process. The person or people who develop the best solutions will receive up to $40,000 in prizes.

“BOEM is committed to mitigating beach erosion by authorizing the use of (outer continental shelf) 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, in a written statement.

“While we don’t know how efficient relocating sea turtles during dredging operations is, we are swimming in data. We’re looking for a new perspective on our existing data which can inform and improve ways to protect these threatened and endangered species.”

Earlier this year, a dredge off Amelia Island caught and severely injured a green sea turtle. Local volunteers got the turtle to Jekyll Island in Georgia for treatment, but it later died from its injuries.

Competitors developing the analytical tools will have to submit those tools, along with visualizations and dashboards, that answer several questions: How many at-risk sea turtles does relocation trawling actually catch and move? How many not-at-risk sea turtles are moved? Does the trawling efficacy change over time or by conditions? What additional data might help analysts?

“With the right data, BOEM will be able to inform relocation trawling guidelines and future research directions related to dredging,” said Kal Sahota, CEO of HeroX. “Having an analytical system in place can help the bureau minimize harm to the sea turtle population and leverage these findings for additional environmental issues affecting the world’s oceans.”

There may be up to six prize winners, but the grand prize winner will receive $15,000.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe



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