Andrew Kemmerer

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Turtle Excluder Device Oral Histories


Partnering with the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi and various Sea Grant programs, this project collects and preserves early 1980s Turtle Excluder Device (TED) oral histories from the inventors of early TEDs, the NOAA Fisheries and Sea Grant personnel central to the development of TEDs, and local shrimpers about their experiences using the early TEDs.

Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Dr. Andrew J. Kemmerer was born on February 11, 1938, in Bryan, Texas. In his early youth, Kemmerer lived in College Station, Texas, eventually moving to Tucson, Arizona at six years old.  Kemmerer spent most of his childhood at his Tucson home and quickly developed an adoration for the outdoors. He spent his summers working with the Arizona Game & Fish Department, the Parks Service, and several other employers that allowed him to work outside. In 1960, Kemmerer graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Wildlife Management. After serving in the United States Air Force for three years in 1963, Kemmerer returned to the University of Arizona where he pursued a Master’s in Fishery Management. Upon the completion of his degree in 1965, Dr. Kemmerer worked for the Game & Fish Department managing their fishery research division. In 1970, Kemmerer moved to Logan, Utah where he received a Ph.D. in Aquatic Ecology from Utah State University.  Following graduation, Kemmerer lived briefly in Hawaii, Washington D.C., and New Jersey, before ultimately beginning his lifelong career with the National Marine and Fishery Service (NMFS) in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

In 1971, Kemmerer began working in the Pascagoula Laboratory as an acoustician. Though he was temporarily called back to Washington D.C., Dr. Kemmerer eventually moved to Bay St. Louis in 1974 to serve as the Director of the National Fisheries Engineering Laboratory in Mississippi. By the early 1980s, Dr. Kemmerer had become the Director of all NMFS laboratories in Mississippi, and eventually of all NMFS laboratories in the Southeast region. Somewhat contemporaneous to his return to Pascagoula in 1983, Dr. Kemmerer began to oversee the domestic and international introduction of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). Kemmerer continued to manage the development and implementation of TEDs until 1999 when he became the Director of Office of Habitat Conservation at the NMFS. Kemmerer retired from the NMFS in 2000. On April 2, 2012, at the age of 74, Dr. Andrew J, Kemmerer passed away.

Scope & Content Note
Dr. Andrew J. Kemmerer describes nearly three decades of his work with the National Marine and Fishery Service (NMFS) regarding the development, introduction, and management of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). The development of TEDs was prompted by the 1979 protection of sea turtles by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Dr. Kemmerer discusses the five species of sea turtle that were most affected by shrimp trawling operations in southeastern fisheries: Green Turtles, Hawksbills, Kemp’s ridleys, Leatherbacks, and Loggerheads. To determine the number of turtles killed by shrimpers, NMFS ran observation programs in the early 1980s. Kemmerer recalls the initial development of TEDs by NMFS gear experts and the cooperation of the shrimp industry concerning their installation. At the time, TEDs were sewn to trawling nets and allowed for 97 percent of captured turtles to escape through a metal-rimmed opening. NMFS instituted additional observation programs to monitor the introduction and success of TEDs. Dr, Kemmerer recalls occasionally joining NMFS observers and interns on shrimping boats but recalls spending most of his time working on statistical, engineering, and research projects in laboratories.

Dr. Kemmerer recalls his role in introducing TEDs to the public. NMFS, in partnership with Sea Grant, hosted a series of meetings, workshops, and presentations to teach shrimpers how to use and maintain TEDs. When NOAA Fisheries released official regulations mandating the use of TEDs in 1987, NMFS hosted a series of information meetings. The implementation of TEDs was initially enforced by NMFS and federal enforcement agents, who were eventually joined by state officers. Still, however, the introduction of TEDs faced challenges. In reality, TEDs were difficult to enforce and occasionally faced opposition in Congress. Dr. Kemmerer explains that contemporaneous to the introduction of TEDs, most shrimpers were suffering financially as a result of shrimp importation and domestic overfishing. Though the use of TEDs resulted in minuscule shrimp loss during trawling operations, misinformation often suggested TEDs were to blame for the state of the industry. Kemmerer concludes by recalling in detail his early childhood, his time spent serving in the United States Air Force, his education, and his long career with the National Marine and Fishery Service.

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