Oceana Files Lawsuit to Save Thousands of Endangered and Threatened Sea Turtles
Over 53,000 Sea Turtles Killed Annually in Gulf and Atlantic Shrimp Trawls
Press Release Date: April 15, 2015
WASHINGTON- Today, Oceana filed a lawsuit against the federal government to protect more than 53,000 sea turtles from shrimp trawl nets. Every year, the federal government allows shrimp trawls to harrass and potentially injure over half of a million threatened and endangered sea turtles in the Gulf and Atlantic, as well as kill over 53,000. In the lawsuit, Oceana alleges that the National Marine Fisheries Service has violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to determine whether shrimp fishing in this region puts sea turtles at risk of extinction, failing to monitor fishing’s impacts on sea turtles and failing to set a limit on how many sea turtles can be caught and killed.
For years, Oceana has repeatedly called for setting limits on the number of sea turtles that can be killed, requirement and better enforcement of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) and higher observer coverage on shrimp fishing boats in the region. Scientific observers on fishing vessels are essential for monitoring how many sea turtles are caught and killed and provide critical information in figuring out how to protect sea turtles from the impacts of fishing. The Southeast shrimp trawl fishery is allowed to catch and kill the highest number of sea turtles in the country, more than all other U.S. Atlantic fisheries combined, yet only 1 percent of its fleet has been monitored for sea turtle bycatch in recent years.
Oceana Assistant General Counsel Eric Bilsky released the following statement:
“If people knew that their order of shrimp cocktail came with a side of government-authorized sea turtle, they would be horrified. Yet, year after year, the federal government continues to allow tens of thousands of sea turtles to drown and die in shrimp trawl nets in the Gulf and Atlantic.
It is unacceptable for the federal government to allow this many endangered and threatened animals to die every year when viable solutions exist. For instance, studies have shown TEDs are 97 percent effective at preventing sea turtle deaths when used correctly, yet the Fisheries Service is not enforcing their use, or even requiring TEDs in all vessels that can use them.”
Last year, Oceana released the report “Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries,” which identified nine of the worst bycatch fisheries in the U.S. The Southeast shrimp trawl fishery was named as one of the most wasteful, throwing out almost two-thirds of what they catch and killing tens of thousands of sea turtles every year.
To learn more about Oceana’s work protecting sea turtles, please click here.
Oceana is represented in this litigation by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America, Asia, and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org