Six conservation groups have teamed together in order to sue the federal government due to their failures to protect sea turtles. The groups are citing that the government is not protecting endangered sea turtles as they are legally required to do under the Endangered Species Act.
The groups suing the National Marine Fisheries Service include: Defenders of Wildlife, Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Florida Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.
The groups make a claim that a common type of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, long baited lines, are leading to the deaths of hundreds of endangered turtles each year. The groups estimate that approximately 1,000 sea turtles were caught between July 2006 and December 2008. This number of sea turtles being caught goes against allowable numbers.
In 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that sea turtles would be able to maintain their numbers if long-line fishing caught less than 114 turtles per three-year period. Clearly, the estimated 1,000 turtles in less than three years would be a violation of the this and the endangered species act.
In addition to the numbers of turtles caught, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted in January to stop long-line fishing for six months off Florida’s coast. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service has not implemented the council’s recommendation.
Steve Roady, an attorney for Earthjustice who is working on the case, stated: “The law clearly says the government cannot allow actions that jeopardize the existence of these species. We think they’re required to stop the fishing.”
The groups are looking for better systems of fishing and management in the Gulf of Mexico. They wish to shut down the long-line fishing season until these problems are faced and resolved. Fishermen are concerned that this will greatly deplete their business, which is a $30 million-a-year industry.