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Federal Fisheries Service Ignores Laws Requiring Protection of Dwindling NE Cod and Endangered Sea Turtles

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Oceana Files Lawsuits to Stop Widespread Use of Destructive Fishing Practices


May 18, 2004
Washington
Contact:
Dustin Cranor ( dcranor@oceana.org | 954-348-1314, 954-348-1314 (cell))




The National Marine Fisheries Service is ignoring long standing laws that requires it to protect juvenile cod habitat and to stop the unnecessary slaughter of marine wildlife including protected sea turtles. Oceana today filed two lawsuits against the Fisheries Service challenging recently adopted fishery management plans for the scallop and groundfish fisheries to force the service to protect cod habitat and turtles.

“Oceana filed these lawsuits because fishery managers continue to make political decisions that disregard science and the law,” said Eric Bilsky, senior attorney for Oceana. “As a result, the health of our oceans and fisheries continues to suffer.”

One lawsuit is the first that challenges the controversial Amendment 13 to the New England groundfish fishery management plan. Under this amendment, the government fails to protect 85 percent of the cod nursery grounds. The lawsuit seeks to protect the essential habitat necessary to help rebuild the historic cod fishery. It also asks the court to require the Fisheries Service to increase observer coverage in both fisheries to collect and use statistically-reliable information about the scallop and groundfish fleets' effect on all marine life.

Oceana filed the second lawsuit because the Fisheries Service continues to ignore the Endangered Species Act - the Atlantic sea scallop fishery management plan fails to protect loggerhead and other protected sea turtles from being caught and killed.

“The problem is that the Fisheries Service continues to allow scallop fishing without really knowing the extent of sea turtle catches and deaths,” said Charlotte Hudson, marine wildlife scientist for Oceana. “It's unconscionable to have identified this serious threat to protected sea turtle populations and then do nothing to stop it.”

Bottom trawlers drag their heavy nets through virtually all of New England's ocean waters each year, according to a 2001 National Academy of Science's report. Numerous national and regional scientific panels have determined that bottom trawling and scallop dredging cause significant, long-term damage to juvenile cod habitat and other complex marine habitats like corals and sponges. Scientists agree that recovery for these habitats, from just one pass of a trawl or dredge, can take over a decade, and that immediate action is necessary for habitat protection.

“Members of the public would be outraged if they could see the widespread clear-cutting of the sea floor by bottom trawling and dredging,” said Chris Zeman, Oceana's New England fisheries program counsel. “If the current fishery practices are allowed to continue, it will seal the fate for New England cod populations and other marine life which cannot thrive in underwater wastelands.”

Oceana organizes campaigns to protect and restore our oceans. Campaign teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates seek specific policy outcomes to help stop the collapse of fisheries, marine mammal populations and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana's campaign staff is based in Washington, DC; Madrid, Spain; Santiago, Chile; Juneau, Alaska; Los Angeles, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif.; the Mid-Atlantic and New England. About 200,000 members and e-activists in more than 150 countries have already joined Oceana. For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org .