The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has launched a crowdsourcing challenge to improve relocation trawling methods for protecting sea turtles during offshore dredging.

Fans of American television might appreciate the name the agency has attached to the contest: Better Call Trawl.

The competition invites scientists to use BOEM data to evaluate the effectiveness of current sea turtle relocation trawling and develop an analytical tool that can improve future efforts. Up to six winners will share the total prize of $40,000, with the grand winner awarded $15,000.

In addition to offshore energy regulation, BOEM is the lead federal agency charged with regulating dredging on the US outer continental shelf. Ocean sand collected in dredging operations is increasingly in demand for use in beach replenishment and coastal restoration projects, it said.

In collecting sand, however, sea turtles resting near or on the seafloor can be sucked up by the dredge and injured or killed.

Specialised trawling vessels dragging a fishing net along the seabed try to capture the turtles before dredging operations, but “little is known about how effective current relocation efforts are in preventing harm to sea turtles and what opportunities may exist for improvements”, the agency said.

The bureau has partnered crowdsourcing platform HeroX on the initiative.

Entry requirements and more information are available at https://www.herox.com/BetterCallTrawl. Submissions are due by 15 December.