Tell NOAA to Protect Sea Turtles

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Originally Posted: 9 April 2010

Tell NOAA to Protect Sea Turtles

FROM Animal Welfare Institute

Please write to NOAA before April 23rd, thanking it for proposing critical habitat for the endangered leatherback and urging it to strengthen the proposal by addressing the threats from commercial longline and drift-net fishing as well as extending the designation to include all the waters in the Leatherback Conservation Area.

CONTACT

Submit comments to (Identify comments by RIN 0648-AX06):
Mr. David Cottingham
Chief Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Conservation Division
NMFS Office of Protected Resources
1315 East West Highway
Silver Springs, MD 20910
Website Submissions
Fax (301) 713-4060

INFORMATION / TALKING POINTS

In response to a petition and lawsuit filed by conservation groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed the designation of more than 70,000 square miles of water off the West Coast as critical habitat for the Pacific leatherback sea turtle. NOAA is accepting comments on the proposal through April 23rd and it is important that it hear from you to ensure that the critically endangered leatherbacks receive protection throughout their range.

Pacific leatherback turtles face myriad challenges on their annual 6,000 mile migration from their nesting sites in Indonesia to their jellyfish-rich feeding grounds off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington State. Leatherbacks have experienced a 95 percent decline in their Pacific nesting populations over the last several decades primarily due to incidental capture in fishing gear and poaching of turtles and turtle eggs. These populations are now facing extinction.

The proposed area would safeguard vital leatherback foraging areas and migratory routes from human threats such as marine debris which turtles can ingest and cause obstructions, chemical pollution which degrades water quality, aquaculture which can degrade and destroy habitat, wave energy which alters water currents and emits harmful electromagnetic radiation, and the construction of permanent ocean structures which can degrade water quality and make the coast less appealing to turtles, inhibiting nesting.

Unfortunately, however, the proposal does not address threats from commercial longline and drift-net fisheries. Entanglement in fishing gear is the leading killer of sea turtles worldwide and thousands of turtles also die as bycatch in these fisheries. A ban on these destructive fishing practices in critical leatherback habitat should be implemented in conjunction with the critical habitat designation.

Also omitted from the proposed critical habitat designation are key likely migration routes between Oregon and California. These routes, through which leatherbacks may forage for jellyfish, lie in an existing Leatherback Conservation Area totaling 200,000 square miles. This area is closed to gillnet fishing for six months of the year – as leatherbacks migrate along the U.S. West Coast. To fully protect leatherbacks, the waters of the Leatherback Conservation Area should be included in the critical habitat designation.


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