Prevent the Deaths of Thousands of Sea Turtles

  • by: Oceana
  • target: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)
Untargeted or discarded catch from commercial fisheries, also known as bycatch, is an enormous problem throughout the world. Trawl fisheries indiscriminately catch everything in their path, including sea turtles!

The National Marine Fisheries Service recognized this problem in 2007 and issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Although this was a first step to get in the water requirements to protect turtles from trawl nets, more than two years later a satisfactory rule has yet to be proposed! Even with this rule, however, trawls in the waters off New England and the Mid-Atlantic States will continue to catch sea turtles for many years. We can, and should, do better.

Sea turtles have been swimming in the world's oceans for more than 100 million years. While they have been able to survive many challenges over the years, sea turtles are not equipped to withstand the threat humans pose.

Please ask Dr. Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to insist that the final rule immediately reduce sea turtle takes in all trawl fisheries!
Dear Dr. Lubchenco,

As you know, sea turtles have been swimming in the world's oceans for more than 100 million years. While they have been able to survive many challenges over the years, sea turtles are not equipped to withstand the threat humans pose.

Even though all six species of sea turtles found in U.S. waters were listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act more than 30 years, no sea turtle species has recovered. In fact, for many species, such as the loggerhead sea turtle, nesting populations continue to decline. Last year your agency recognized commercial fishing gear as the greatest threat to sea turtles, including loggerheads.

Untargeted or discarded catch, also known as bycatch, is an enormous problem throughout the world. Trawl fisheries indiscriminately catch everything in their path, including sea turtles. There is a partial solution though. Turtle excluder devices (TEDs) are escape hatches that at least allow large species, such as sea turtles, to struggle out of the nets alive. Trawl nets equipped with properly functioning TEDs could lead to a 97 percent reduction in sea turtle entrapment.

Unfortunately, the government has yet to require TEDs in all trawl fisheries that are known to take and even kill sea turtles. An estimated 770 sea turtles are caught annually in Mid-Atlantic bottom trawl fisheries alone. Of these fisheries, only the summer flounder fishery is currently required to use TEDs.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recognized this problem and issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on February 15, 2007. But the rule has yet to be released.

[Your comments here]

I urge you to take action to protect sea turtles. As the new NOAA Administrator, please encourage rapid completion of a rule to immediately reduce sea turtle takes in all trawl fisheries that operate where there are sea turtles. The sea turtles and the oceans are depending on you.
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