Protect Marine Wildlife
Sea Turtles: Victories
In the largest designation of critical habitat to-date, threatened loggerhead sea turtles gained federal protection of critical habitat along the Atlantic coast and Gulf states—an area including 685 miles of beaches from Mississippi to North Carolina and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean habitat. The federal government designated these important nesting beaches and ocean waters off several states as protected areas essential for loggerhead recovery, which does not restrict public access to these areas, but requires all federal activities within the critical habitat go through an extra review process. The ruling is a direct result of a lawsuit filed in January 2013 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Turtle Island Restoration Network after the government failed to respond to petitions to strengthen protections for loggerhead populations dating back to 2007.Read Press Release
The California Senate designated the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as California’s official state marine reptile and declare October 15 every year as Leatherback Conservation Day. Oceana was a sponsor and supporter of the bill, and generated statewide support from thousands of California citizens and more than 30 conservation entities including the California Fish and Game Commission. The bill is intended to recognize the importance of California state waters to the survival and recovery of this ancient sea turtle species.Read Press Release
After campaigning by Oceana, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced new regulations for the Atlantic scallop fishery that will require Turtle Deflector Devices (TDDs) in areas and during times when sea turtles are known to be present.
The scallop fishery has long been a threat to sea turtles, who get caught up and drowned in the heavy equipment. TDDs are expected to reduce sea turtle mortality by at least 56 percent when compared to former dredges that force them into heavy chain bags where they were dragged and often drowned.Read Press Release
The National Marine Fisheries Service finalized protection of 41,914 square miles of protected critical ocean habitat off the shores of Washington, Oregon and California for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The final rule establishes critical habitat in areas where leatherbacks feed on jellyfish after swimming 6,000 miles across the ocean from nests in Indonesia. This is the first permanent safe haven for leatherbacks designated in continental U.S. waters and is the largest area set aside to protect sea turtle habitat in the United States or its territories.
The final protection comes in response to a petition submitted in 2007 by Oceana, Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center, followed by two years of delay by the agency, missing multiple legal deadlines specified in the Endangered Species Act.Read Press Release
Though failing to improve protections for bluefin tuna, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) increased the number of shark species prohibited for retention in ICCAT fisheries. Specifically, the group improved conservation measures for oceanic whitetip sharks, hammerhead sharks and shortfin mako sharks. In addition, ICCAT put in place new measures to reduce sea turtle mortality, such as the use of sea turtle dehooking and disentangling gear as well as mandatory collection and submission of sea turtle bycatch data.Read Press Release
In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.
The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.Read Press Release
The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council took its final step in an effort to protect threatened sea turtles from the bottom longline sector of the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. Specifically, the Council voted to close all bottom longline fishing shoreward of 35 fathoms (approximately 210 feet) from June to August, a time when large numbers of loggerheads were caught in previous years, and to restrict longline fishing of all vessels that have a history of catching at least 40,000 lbs of reef fish each year.Read Press Release
The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to maintain a standing prohibition on a West Coast-based high seas longline fishery. The vote will prevent the opening of a new swordfish fishery that would threaten migrating loggerhead sea turtles and other marine wildlife on the high seas of the north Pacific Ocean.
After Oceana’s advocacy work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) put in place an emergency closure of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to bottom longline fishing gear from the reef fish fishery to protect sea turtles. The closure included all waters shallower than 50 fathoms for a period of six months. NMFS took this action after the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted (10-7) to ask them to do so. Oceana was instrumental in pushing both the Agency and the Council to take these actions to protect sea turtles.
Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of the Interior to uplist the loggerhead sea turtle population in the Atlantic Ocean from "threatened" to "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the petition calls on the government to protect key habitat areas by designating them “critical habitats” under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. government announced on March 5, 2008 that our petition was sufficiently well-founded to require a detailed governmental review of the loggerhead sea turtle population in the Atlantic Ocean to decide whether it should be declared "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act.