Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, filed a complaint today about the United States government’s decision in October of 2010 to allow eight New England and Mid-Atlantic fisheries to harm 14 times more (from 42 to 610) threatened loggerhead sea turtles. Specifically, Oceana is disputing the U.S. government’s decision to allow these fisheries to injure and kill more loggerhead sea turtles without adequately assessing the aggregate impacts of the fisheries on this species. The fisheries harm leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles as well, and those species also would benefit from proper assessments of the fisheries’ impacts.
“The U.S. needs to ensure that fisheries kill fewer sea turtles, not more,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “These decisions should not be made without considering all of the impacts affecting these sea turtle populations.”
Oceana’s complaint addresses biological opinions for eight federal fisheries, including those for monkfish and for summer flounder, scup and black sea bass, which are responsible for the highest levels of sea turtle bycatch in the region. Biological opinions are part of the consultation and review process when a federal agency authorizes commercial activities that are expected to harm or kill a species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Although these decisions came on the same day and were even announced in the same press release, the analysis for each fishery did not adequately account for the increased number of sea turtles harmed by the other seven fisheries.
“It is absurd to pretend that each fishery operates in a vacuum,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “This is like saying that if each of the eight fisheries kills five sea turtles, then only five were killed, not 40. What the U.S. government is doing simply does not add up.”
Oceana is calling on the U.S. to implement simple solutions to protect and restore sea turtle populations in the Atlantic, including the requirement of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in trawls that allow sea turtles to escape after being unintentionally caught, adopting adequate monitoring of fisheries that catch sea turtles, capping the allowable catch of sea turtles and where necessary closing areas for fishing when and where sea turtles are present.
Oceana is represented in this litigation by Hogan Lovells US LLP.
For more information about U.S. sea turtles, please click here.