Sea Turtle Restoration Project Background and Timeline
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For the past 20 years, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) has worked persistently - and successfully - to save one of the oldest, most mysterious, most endangered species on the planet: Sea Turtles.
STRP was founded in 1989 by biologist and activist Todd Steiner, under the guidance of David Brower at Earth Island Institute. Steiner founded the project after learning that sea turtles he worked to protect in Central America were being legally slaughtered after they migrated into Mexican waters.
STRP's many victories have included compelling Mexico to end its then-legal harvest of sea turtles and closing a sea turtle slaughterhouse; compelling 20 nations to use turtle-saving gear in their shrimping practices; creating policy reform that instituted a 200,000 square mile time-area closure, the Leatherback Conservation Area (LCA) on the west coast drift gillnet fishery in 2001, and preventing the reopening of drift gillnet fishing in the LCA; and using California's Prop 65 to require posting of mercury-in-seafood warning signage in California supermarkets and restaurants.
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project, with offices in California, Texas, Costa Rica, and Papua New Guinea, is the largest project of Turtle Island Restoration Network, a 501c3 organization. In addition to STRP, Turtle Island sponsors projects focusing on endangered salmon and toxic mercury in seafood. Turtle Island's mission is to take swift and decisive action to protect and restore marine species and their habitats and to inspire people in communities all over the world to join us as active and vocal marine species advocates.
Sea Turtle Restoration Project Timeline
1989 Community based conservation of olive ridley turtles launched in Nicaragua with local organizations.
1990 Catalyzes international campaign to end annual slaughter of 50,000 turtles on Mexico's coast, and end the "legal" slaughter of turtles in that nation. Mexico joins CITES.
Spearheads international effort that convinces Japan to stop the importation of sea turtle products.
1993 Initiates lawsuit that results in 20 nations adopting rules requiring turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on shrimp nets.
Creates award-wining TEDs video with United Nations to promote worldwide use of this technology.
1994 Brings the world's attention to a local campaign in India to successfully protect Bhitar Kanika turtle reserve, a nesting site of global importance.
1995 Turtle-SafeŠ shrimp certification program, the first seafood certification program launched to use market forces to reform shrimp fishing industry, begins building new fisher/food industry/activist coalitions.
Community-based conservation program in Costa Rica begins hatching first of 300,000 endangered sea turtles returned to the sea.
1996 International campaign blocks resort construction project - Playa La Flor, Nicaragua's key olive ridley turtle nesting beach is declared a National Wildlife Refuge.
1997 Initiates the creation of PRETOMA, a sister organization in Costa Rica with STRP's Central American director as President. PRETOMA grows to be a major force in the region for protection of ocean species.
1999 Sea turtle issue crystallizes understanding of "free trade" impact on the environment. Time Magazine names sea turtles the "peaceful symbol" of dramatic WTO Seattle demonstrations against trade rules that ignore environmental concerns.
2000 Nationwide campaign convinces state of Texas to close shrimping along 100 miles of coastline during the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle nesting season.
Full-page ad runs opposing Japanese/Cuban initiative to reopen trade in shells of endangered sea turtles. Initiative defeated.
Legal actions win closure of California gillnets fisheries to protect sea turtles and sea otters.
2001 Lawsuit ruling closes 7 million square miles of Pacific Ocean to protect critically endangered leatherbacks from Hawaiian longline swordfish fishing.
Integrates HEART (Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles) an all-volunteer Texas organization into STRP program, creating a full-time position for its founder and national presence for ocean protection in the Gulf of Mexico.
2002 Initiates international meeting to catalyze solutions to the leatherback turtle's precipitous decline, covered in Smithsonian magazine.
Authors a call signed by over from 1007 scientists and a petition signed by over 10,000 individuals urging the United Nations to stop the high seas longlining and gillnetting driving the leatherback sea turtle to the brink of extinction in the Pacific.
2003 Through the new Got Mercury Campaign, leads the effort to reduce consumption of mercury contaminated fish (tuna, swordfish and shark) and catalyzes the California Attorney General to compel health warning labeling on swordfish and mercury at all state supermarkets.
Closed the California longline swordfish fishery, which had exploited a legal loophole to fish in waters closed to Hawaiian fishers and put endangered leatherbacks in jeopardy.
2005 Got Mercury Campaign compels national action from one of nations largest supermarkets (Safeway) to warn customers in states beyond California, where mercury-in-seafood warnings are not legally required.
2006 Works with Costa Rican partner organization PRETOMA to establish 20,000 hectare Wildlife Refuge to protect sea turtles in Costa Rica.
2007 Prevents the reopening of drift gillnet fishing in the Leatherback Conservation Area off the US West Coast, cutting the effort of the US Pacific drift gillnet fishery effort by 15-20 percent.
Gains international grassroots support to protect Playa Grande Beach in Las Baulas National Marine Park, the best remaining leatherback nesting beach in the Eastern Pacific, from tourism development.
2008 Demonstrates the importance of the Cocos Ridge Corridor to marine wildlife through primary shark research, and gaining the support of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for establishment of a model, cooperative protected marine swimway in the area.
Files a petition calling for designated critical habitat for the leatherback off California and Oregon, which NMFS has determined "may be warranted" and has begun a detailed review.
Gains the support of California legislators, the Ocean Protection Council and the California Coastal Commission against new fisheries proposals in the waters off California.
Establishes the first marine protection Conservation Deed Trust to protect Pacific leatherback sea turtle nesting beaches in Papua New Guinea in the village of Karkum, successfully utilizing traditional laws for marine protection for the first time.
2009 Successfully stops the creation of a new longline fishery in California's EEZ and the reopening of the California longline fishery.
Initiates the creation of MAKATA a sister organization in Papua New Guinea with STRP's Western Pacific director as President.
Saves endangered loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico by compelling a temporary fishery closure that had killed nearly 1,000 turtles in the prior 18 months until better protections can be put in place
Celebrates first 20 years of victories for the sea turtles - and prepares for 20 more!
2010 After the devastating BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, saves the lives of endangered sea turtles by stopping BP and the U.S. Coast Guard from burning oil during cleanup efforts without first rescuing sea turtles and other marine wildlife from the area.
Through undercover investigations, reveals high mercury levels in a random sampling of fish from supermarkets and restaurants around the U.S. and alerts the public through significant media coverage, helping protect public health.