Sunday, December 27, 2009

Loggerhead Turtles: threatened by new Hawaii and Florida regs

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

Read press release from Courthouse News Service.
If you would like to add your voice in protest to the new regs, click here.


hope chests said...

It is so alarming that many of the endangered species are nearing extinction. What the concern people are doing is not enough. They tried hard but I guess the animals are giving up.

RTSea said...

Well, the animals aren't giving up. But you mustn't either!

Several strategies are needed: one that brings awareness to the general public, and another that focuses on the decision-makers and whether they should be influenced by commercial interests or their constituents.

In the case of the FL & HI longline regs, commercial interests have had a greater influence on the policymakers than have the conservationists. That means that we must double our efforts and be sure that the policymakers/politicians know that they will be held accountable (at the voting booth).

Hang in there and never, ever give up.

Gadfly said...

All of the news isn't bad, thank goodness. Some fishery management councils are taking steps, mostly small but some large, to finally address larger, ecosystem wide issues. They are, sometimes reluctantly, following the law that sets absolute limits on the numbers of overfished species that can be caught in commercial and recreational fisheries. Both the South Atlantic and Gulf councils are reining in the catches of long-lived fish like grouper and requiring the rebuilding of grouper in both regions and red snapper in the Atlantic. The SA council just closed 23,000 square miles of deep sea corals to bottom trawls and closed a large, though not large enough, area to all bottom fishing to reduce the catch of the overfished species.

There is still the problem of wealthy fishing interests in the New England and Mid Atlatic councils pushing congress to privatize the fisheries and undo the conservation provisions of the Magnuson Stevens Act but at least there is some progress in some regions. Individual's actions made the progress possible Blogs like this can keep the progress moving.

RTSea said...

Thanks for the additional info, Gadfly.

Every little step in the right direction helps and we and all the NGO/conservation agencies will have to remain vigilant to insure commercial interests do not usurp or bypass regulations and legislation.

DSLR said...

I am greatly bothered by articles like this. I am a tree hugger at heart (and I guess a turtle hugger too!) because my heart breaks when I see this happening. Such magestic and graceful creatures killed by mistake and treated as collateral damage is terrible. I believe that awareness is also a great tool against the depletion of our planet's natural wildlife, but I can't help but feel disheartened and pessimistic.