Atlantic fisheries kill hundreds of loggerhead sea turtles every year, as turtles are caught as bycatch and become trapped or drown in nets. This killing, however, can easily be avoided. There are known, proven solutions to this problem, like requiring more vessels to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs). But federal agencies continue to ignore the problems at hand and allow fisheries to operate in harmful ways.
That’s why last week Oceana filed an amended complaint as part of its lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect sea turtles. NMFS authorizes the continued operation of fisheries that injure and kill sea turtles without promoting or requiring solutions that would save these animals, as they should do under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Northwest Atlantic loggerhead population remains in decline because of this. In an effort to gain sea turtle protections, Oceana filed suit four years ago to compel NMFS to accurately analyze the risks these fisheries pose to loggerhead turtles.
In response to past legal actions, NMFS issued environmental analyses (called “biological opinions” under the ESA) about these risks, but each analysis came with its own shortcomings, including not even establishing enforceable limits on the number of sea turtles that can be legally killed every year. NMFS has failed to remedy these failings and the fisheries continue to operate without changing their practices to protect sea turtles and without fully accounting for the future dangers of eroding nesting beaches, rising sea levels, or the impacts of bycatch in international fisheries. Without useful environmental analyses and new mitigation measures, the fisheries will continue to needlessly kill sea turtles.
Oceana is working to compel NMFS to transparently analyze the risks that these and other fisheries pose to loggerhead sea turtles and work in good faith to find and implement solutions that will promote fishing and protect sea turtles into the future.