Greens Petition for Endangered Status for Loggerhead Turtles

Eco groups want greater protection for loggerhead turtles at risk from longline fishing.© U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Two non-profit conservation groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, filed a formal petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week to grant protected status under the Endangered Species Act to the dwindling numbers of loggerhead sea turtles plying the North Pacific between Japan and the west coast of North America. The groups say that the turtles" population has decreased by as much as 80 percent over the last 25 years as a result of getting caught and killed in industrial-scale fishing nets. Besides asking to grant endangered status to the loggerheads, the groups would like to see areas along the California coast and off Hawaii designated as "critical habitat" for the species. That would mean limitations on commercial fisheries, especially the controversial longline fishing industry, which places several thousand baited hooks on lines extending upwards of 60 miles below the ocean’s surface.

"Sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but are unlikely to survive longline fishing," says Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity. "This barbaric fishing gear should be banned from our nation’s and international waters."

Despite the call from thousands of scientists and hundreds of conservation organizations for a United Nations moratorium on longlining in the Pacific, the U.S. is gearing up to expand such fisheries. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network hope that granting loggerhead sea turtles endangered status will help stem support for longlining among fishermen and U.S. regulators.

"Rather than opening the waters off California and Oregon to deadly industrial fishing fleets, we should be protecting these areas as critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles and other imperiled wildlife," says Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Todd Steiner.

Source: The Center For Biological Diversity