John Mitchell

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

Darlene Perez 

Biographical Sketch

John Mitchell was born October 29, 1955, in Chicago Heights, Illinois.  He is a Unit Leader for the Harvesting Systems Unit, NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fishery Science Center, Mississippi Laboratories. Mitchell started out working as a fisheries technician at the Pascagoula laboratory in 1981, working as a fisheries observer on Japanese longliners that were fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for tuna. He would ride the boats for months. He would sometimes transfer from one boat to another at sea. After his first several years as a fisheries observer, some vacancies became available for individuals to work on the TED project. The particular unit responsible for TED research was the Harvesting Systems Unit. John was hired as an Assistant Technician to work aboard commercial trawlers and compare the catches of shrimp and fish from trawls equipped with TEDs versus non-TED trawls. The US Coast Guard would sometimes call on him to train officers to do onboard TED inspections. Beginning in 1995, he and his group started working globally, conducting TED workshops in over twenty countries worldwide.

Scope & Content Note:
John spent a great deal of time traveling to different ports throughout the Gulf of Mexico, meeting up with fishers. It was an excellent experience for him. It was great exposure to the fish that are out here in the Gulf of Mexico, but culturally it sparked his interest in learning more about fishing methods worldwide. He obtained a good understanding of how tough it is to make a living as a commercial fisherman. He would like to reach out to the Vietnamese fishermen educating them about the use of different types of fish excluders to reduce the bycatches, especially of juvenile fish, and talk to them more about sustainable fishing overall. John also learned Japanese from his time on the Japanese longliners.

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The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

Voices Oral History Archives does not verify the accuracy of materials submitted to us. The opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the interviewee only. The interviews here have been made available to the public only after the interviewer has confirmed that they have obtained consent.