Funding Opportunity /  15 December 2022

HeroX Challenge: Better Call Trawl

Explore BOEM data, build analytic tools, and recommend solutions for sea turtle relocation trawling approaches to reduce incidental risk. Prize: $40,000

Deadline: 15 December 2022 - the deadline has passed.

Challenge Overview

We all like beautiful sandy beaches, and we all love the sea turtles that nest on them, right? But considering climate change and future sea level rise projections, how do we continue to maintain healthy beaches in harmony with sea turtles? - that’s the crux of this challenge. 

To preserve our beautiful sandy beaches, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) authorizes giant dredges to vacuum up sand from the bottom of the ocean to replenish eroded beaches. In the process of collecting sand, however, sea turtles resting near or on the seafloor can be sucked up by the dredge and can be injured, often lethally. 

Over twenty years ago, a team of experts developed sea turtle relocation trawling methods to try and prevent sea turtles from being injured or killed during dredging. Essentially a fishing net is dragged along the seafloor to capture sea turtles near where dredging is taking place. These captured sea turtles are then moved out of the dredge area to keep them safe. 

The trawling, catch, and relocation of sea turtles has drawbacks. It is thought that only the sea turtles near or on the seafloor are at risk of being sucked into the dredge. But trawling could be capturing sea turtles swimming above the sea floor, as well as any other creature on or near the sea floor, that may otherwise not be impacted by the dredge. Furthermore, the act of catching sea turtles and moving them could injure the sea turtles and is likely stressful. So the trick is to catch and relocate as many at-risk sea turtles (those less than two meters above the sea floor) as possible, without disturbing the non-at-risk sea turtles (those more than two meters above the seafloor) or other creatures that should not be caught.

Where you come in:

The efficacy of sea turtle relocation trawling has yet to be quantitatively tested. BUT BOEM is ‘swimming’ in great data - and they need your help! Your use of these unique datasets, and potentially data from other sources, will help BOEM understand more about:

  • How many at-risk sea turtles sea turtle relocation trawling actually catches and moves 
  • How many non-at-risk sea turtles are captured and moved
  • How the efficacy (at-risk sea turtles/ non-at-risk sea turtles captured) changes over the period of dredging; Or based on the behavior of the sea turtles (directed swimming, migrating, resting), etc.
  • What additional data could be collected to bolster your confidence in the conclusions
  • How current sea turtle relocation trawling methods can be modified to increase at-risk sea turtle catch rate while decreasing the catch rate of non-at-risk sea turtles and other bycatch

The Challenge seeks analytic tools (e.g., decision dashboards, data markdown files/notebooks, analytic reports) to demonstrate projected sea turtle relocation trawling effectiveness, help guide new scientific studies, and improve future sea turtle relocation trawling effectiveness. Up to 4 winners will share in a $40,000 prize purse.

Tackle this challenge and the next time you are enjoying your favorite drink on a white sandy beach you can know that you helped keep beaches sandy AND sea turtles safe!!