A trio of environmental groups last week filed notices of intent to sue the federal government over violations of the Endangered Species Act related to turtle protection. The groups—the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network—maintain that the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to meet a 12-month deadline for responding to three separate petitions that focused on loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles in U.S. coastal waters.
"The U.S. government has knowingly failed to respond to our petitions," said Oceana's senior campaign director David Allison. "Sea turtles in all U.S. waters are at risk of extinction, and the agency responsible for their protection is failing to do its job."
"The threats to the loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles" existence, ranging from being captured and killed by indiscriminate commercial fishing gear to nesting beach destruction and climate change, continue to grow even as the species" numbers dwindle," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Andrea Treece. "If these magnificent animals are to survive, the federal agencies entrusted to protect them cannot be allowed to ignore the law."
Besides insisting that the federal government comply with its own laws in regard to responding to species listing petitions in a timely fashion—for the sake of quickly vanishing species if nothing else—the groups are also calling on Congress and the White House to pass comprehensive legislation designed specifically to protect dwindling populations of U.S. sea turtles.
"It's time for the Obama administration to overturn the Bush policies of hostility and disregard toward endangered marine species," said biologist Todd Steiner, executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network. "We are asking for immediate action based on the best available science to determine their current endangered status and better protect them."