The fate of sea turtles, particularly the loggerhead sea turtle, is once again at further risk - this time due to a loosening of U.S. regulations for the longline fisheries in Hawaii and Florida, fisheries that are in pursuit of swordfish and must deal with sea turtles (and many other unfortunate species) as accidental bycatch.
A suit was filed this week against the National Marine Fisheries Service by Earth Justice on behalf of The Center for Biological Diversity, Caribbean Conservation organizations, Defenders of Wildlife, Gulf Restoration Network, and Turtle Island Restoration Network. The suit states that while the Fisheries Service has filed reports that claim that the loggerhead sea turtles face extinction unless the numbers of commercially caught turtles are reduced, they have also proposed a change in longline regulations that would allow for more longlines - literally more hooks in the water - that would produce a three-fold increase in turtle bycatch. The loggerhead sea turtle is currently on the endangered species list, so these new regulations, obviously designed to increase the catch of swordfish, would seem to run counter to the intent of protection required by the Endangered Species Act.
The swordfish fisheries, particularly in Hawaii, have experienced closure at times in the past, even during the past U.S. administration, so it is particularly disheartening to see the influence of the commercial fishing industry on the new administration.
And then on top of it all, we're talking about increasing capacity for commercially-caught swordfish - a fish that currently provides in one 8 oz. fillet over 4 times the acceptable level of mercury for the week. That's a month's worth in one sitting. What crazy, fish-hugging radicals came up with those levels? The government's own Environmental Protection Agency. (Check out GotMercury.org.)
Read press release from Courthouse News Service.
If you would like to add your voice in protest to the new regs, click here.