Court Finds the National Marine Fisheries Service Must take action to protect sea turtles after gulf oil spill
Ruling requires government to reconsider impacts of bottom longline fishing in the Gulf of Mexico
Gainesville, Fla. (07/06/2011) - Conservation groups scored a victory in court Tuesday in their effort to protect imperiled sea turtles from death and injury from the Gulf of Mexico bottom longline fishery. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) violated the law when it failed to consider a reasonable range of fishery management alternatives to protect loggerhead sea turtles and refused to take a fresh look at the fishery’s impact on sea turtles after last year’s massive Gulf oil disaster.
The bottom longline fishery has had a history of problems with sea turtle interactions in recent years, facing an emergency closure in 2009 and reopening later that year only under strict measures to protect endangered species. Then in 2010, NMFS issued new regulations that weakened this protection for sea turtles just as they became even more vulnerable due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Even though the agency recognized the need to move hundreds of sea turtle nests away from the oil-affected Gulf beaches, NMFS failed to perform scientific analysis to ensure that vulnerable sea turtles receive the protections needed to ensure their long-term survival and recovery.
Statement by Sierra Weaver, staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife:
“This is a big win for sea turtles. The Gulf of Mexico is home to five species of sea turtles listed as either threatened or endangered and capture and death in commercial fisheries is widely known to be one of their greatest obstacles to survival. These already poor odds were made that much worse by the Deep Water Horizon disaster. It takes little more than common sense to know that the government needs to reconsider the impact of the fisheries on struggling sea turtle populations in light of the enormous Deepwater Horizon blowout.”
Cindy Hoffman, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-1331
The coalition responsible for the court victory includes Defenders of Wildlife, the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Earthjustice.