Speak Up to Protect Sea Turtle Habitat

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Originally Posted: 8 March 2010

Speak Up to Protect Sea Turtle Habitat

FROM Center for Biological Diversity

Tell the National Marine Fisheries Service to strengthen its proposed critical habitat protection by addressing fishing gear as well as including all necessary migratory and feeding areas. Pacific leatherback needs the strongest protection possible if the species is to survive and recover.


Sign an online petition

And/Or make direct contact:

David Cottingham
Chief, Marine Mammal/Sea Turtle Conservation
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
phone (301) 713-2332
fax (301) 713-0376 or (301) 713-4060


On January 5, the Center for Biological Diversity's longstanding efforts to protect key foraging and migratory habitat for Pacific leatherback sea turtles resulted in the first-ever proposal to designate open ocean critical habitat for sea turtles in the continental United States. Responding to a petition by the Center and our allies -- and a subsequent lawsuit -- the National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed to protect more than 70,000 square miles of open ocean habitat off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington for leatherback sea turtles. These areas represent vital foraging and migratory areas for western Pacific leatherbacks, which make a remarkable 6,000-mile journey from nesting grounds in Indonesia to feed on rich jellyfish blooms off the West Coast.

Protecting this habitat is vital to saving critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles. Fewer than 6,000 nesting females remain in the western Pacific leatherback population. These ocean-going giants encounter a gauntlet of longlines and gillnets on their journey across the Pacific, making entanglement and drowning in commercial fishing gear one of the primary causes of the leatherback mortality. Those that survive the journey need and deserve strong protection from such threats when they reach our waters to feed.

Unfortunately, the Fisheries Service critical habitat proposal inexplicably excludes consideration of commercial fishing gear as a threat to the turtles' safe passage through migratory and feeding areas. It also excludes some areas that provide important migratory passageways and food sources.

This historic proposal is a step forward, but we need to take larger strides. Please tell the Fisheries Service to include all key areas in its critical habitat designation and ensure that leatherback habitat is protected from the main threat to adult leatherback survival -- capture in commercial fishing gear.


Subject: Protect Ocean Habitat for Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtles - RIN 0648-AX06

I applaud the Fisheries Service's decision to designate the first expanse of open-water critical habitat for sea turtles. The best available science shows that the waters off the U.S. West Coast provide crucial foraging habitat and migratory corridors for the critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle. Providing strong, expansive protection for this area is necessary to ensure this species' survival and recovery.

The best available science also shows that commercial fishing gear, including gillnet and longline gear, is a serious impediment to the leatherback sea turtle's safe passage through its ocean habitat. The agency's conclusion in the proposed critical habitat rule that fishing gear does not impair the habitat's value for passage and feeding defies common sense and is contrary to scientific evidence. The Fisheries Service must address this threat in its final critical habitat designation.

In addition to considering fishing gear as an impediment to passage, the final critical habitat rule must ensure that the current Leatherback Conservation Area protections, which include closing the area to drift gillnet fishing from August to November, remain in place. The full extent of this area should also be incorporated into the final critical habitat area to ensure that these protections are upheld for at least as long as this antiquated gear is allowed to operate in U.S. waters.

Finally, the Fisheries Service should closely re-examine the ecological value of the areas it has excluded from the proposed critical habitat designation. The final designation should include all areas necessary to ensure that leatherbacks have ample foraging areas to support their survival and recovery, as well as safe passage to foraging areas throughout all West Coast waters.

In sum, the Pacific leatherback needs the strongest protection possible if the species is to survive and recover.

Thank you for your consideration...

Thank you for everything you do for animals!