To stop the needless drowning of hundreds of loggerheads and other
sea turtles, the Florida longline fishery was closed down for 6
months, May to October 2009. More than 2,500 STRP members and supporters signed our petition to shut down the deadly fishery, and thousands more submitted letters during the public comment period that ended on June 1, 2009.
Now fishery managers have decided to re-open the fishery based on poor science that puts seafood profits before sea turtles. National Marine Fisheries Service ignored its own scientists who found in August 2009 that almost every loggerhead population was threatened with extinction. See the Status Review.
So we have had no choice but to join a lawsuit with our allies to put a stop to the sea turtle capture and killing in this deadly bottom longline fishery. See the press release and lawsuit.Earlier in the year, STRP and its ocean and sea turtle coalition are calling for a permanent year-round closure to protect the disappearing loggerhead sea turtle. See our coalition's comment letter.
See the public comment letter from Sea Turtle Restoration Project, the 2,500-signature long petition to close the fishery, and the latest comment letter from our ocean and sea turtle coalition.
While reviewing these public comments to seal the emergency closure for the season, fishery managers are holding public hearings in Gulf of Mexico states to determine long-term measures to protect sea turtles.
Sign-up on our email alert list in box at right to get alerts about future actions to ensure sea turtle protection from this fishery. Donate to support our efforts to protect the loggerhead.
Background: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) closed the fishery because its data indicate the fishery had
captured more than 8 times the number of sea turtles authorized
previously by NMFS in its 2005 biological opinion. NMFS had determined that the Gulf of Mexico fishery
could capture up to 114 sea turtles, including 85 loggerheads, during a
three-year period without violating the Endangered Species Act. But in
recent months, the agency released new information that vessels in the
Gulf caught nearly 1,000 turtles between July 2006 and December 2008 -
more than eight times the number allowed. Further
bottom longline fishing could jeopardize the existence of loggerhead
sea turtles "unless action is taken to reduce the fishery's impact on
this threatened species."
Sea Turtle Restoration Project,
Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of
Wildlife, and a coalition of conservation groups -Caribbean
Conservation Corporation, Florida Wildlife Federation and Gulf
Restoration Network - sued NMFS in mid-April to seek protection for
these imperiled animals and requested the emergency closure implemented
today by NMFS.Details on Emergency Closure:
Following the conservation organizations' lawsuit filed April 15 and
renewed action by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to
support an emergency closure in mid-April, NMFS closed the bottom
longline fishery for up to 180 days.
During this closure, NMFS states that it plans to
complete a new biological opinion that will evaluate the impact of the
fishery and insure that it is not likely to jeopardize the continued
existence of the sea turtle species captured in it. It will also
consider measures that could be used to reduce turtle capture and
killing by the fishery, to allow it to reopen at a future date.
also states that it is working with the Gulf Council to implement
"long-term measures to reduce bycatch of sea turtles in the eastern
Gulf of Mexico" which "are needed to provide protection for loggerhead
sea turtles" in particular due to the long-term decline in their
nesting population in Florida.
NMFS provides notice that it may renew the
closure for a longer period of time if necessary for NMFS to fulfill
its legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act and the Magnuson
Stevens Act to prevent further harm to threatened and endangered sea
In February 2009,
NMFS requested public comment regarding an emergency closure to protect
sea turtles in view of the high numbers of unexpected turtle captures
but still had not acted as of April 15, 2009 when conservation groups
filed suit to compel protective action by the agency.
National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of
Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is
responsible for ensuring that bottom longline fishing does not pose a
threat to sea turtle populations. Bottom longline fishing is a fishing
process that uses hundreds or even thousands of baited hooks along
miles of lines laid behind fishing vessels and stretching down to the
reef and Gulf floor.
The fishing hooks target species like
grouper, tilefish, and sharks, but often catch other fish or wildlife,
including endangered and threatened sea turtles. Injuries from these
hooks affect a sea turtle's ability to feed, swim, avoid predators, and
reproduce. Many times the turtles drown or, unable to recover from the
extreme physiological stress, die soon after being released from the
A portion of fishing vessels within the Reef Fish
Fishery have used bottom longline fishing gear off the west Florida
shelf within the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which NMFS has described as
"an important sea turtle foraging habitat." Additional Resources See the Federal Register Notice It is entitled "Reef Fish Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico."