The Trump Administration Just Put Leatherback Sea Turtles at Further Risk of Extinction

Leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific are in trouble, but the Trump Administration has allowed the opening of a longline fishery that conservationists fear could push them to the brink, and threaten other species – so they’re suing to stop it.

This week the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network filed a lawsuit challenging a decision made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to allow two vessels to use longlines between 50 and 200 miles off the coast of California for two years – despite the fact that a federal ban was put in place in 2004 to protect sea turtles from being killed as bycatch.

These longlines can stretch for dozens of miles with thousands of hooks hanging from them, and while they typically target tuna and swordfish, they’re putting a number of non-target species at risk of getting caught on hooks and drowning, or getting fatally injured.

For leatherback sea turtles, this could be particularly disastrous. As the groups note, scientists have predicted they could go extinct in 20 years, yet the NMFS is going to allow longlines in the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area, which bans swordfish fishing using drift gillnets to protect them.

“Leatherback sea turtles need to catch a break, not a longline hook,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center senior attorney. “Californians demand more selective and sustainable fishing for swordfish. But the indiscriminate longlines authorized by the Trump administration will hook, injure and drown endangered species off our coast.”

Not only will it put leatherbacks in danger, it’s also expected to put other species at risk, including protected ones, such as olive ridley sea turtles, a distinct population of loggerhead sea turtles, seabirds and Guadalupe fur seals, who have already been found stranded in California at at troubling rate over the past few years.

Although the NMFS concluded that “the impacts of the [longline exempted fishing permits] are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat,” conservationists disagree and are arguing that the agency violated just a couple of important kind of important laws by issuing these permits, including the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“This is basically the same fishery the agency outlawed fifteen years ago, and the same agency is using a backdoor maneuver to get the fishery reopened,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Sea turtles could go extinct if deadly longline fisheries are expanded. And it’s not just in California— the Hawaii longline fleet has been forced to close early two years in a row because they have exceeded their legal turtle take. It makes no sense to re-authorize this wasteful fishery off of California.”

Hopefully the lawsuit will get these permits thrown out and sea turtles will have one less problem to deal with. For leatherback sea turtles, it could mean the difference between giving them a chance at survival, or pushing them closer to extinction.

Photo credit: Getty Images

77 comments

Julia R
Julia R7 days ago

Trump is a man without honor or principle who will do anything to give big powerful industries who can pay back his favors by giving campaign money to his re-election no matter what the cost! I hope that the Center for Biodiversity and California state law win! And I can't wait for the day when Trump will be arrested for all of his dirty dealings when he is out of office!

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Julia R
Julia R7 days ago

This man puts everyone at risk even our entire country! A terrible excuse for a president! Trump really belongs in jail. It's a sad day in our history when someone is kept out of jail not because he didn't commit crimes but because he's president!

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heather g
heather g10 days ago

I support the lawsuit....

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Chad A
Chad Anderson11 days ago

Thank you.

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Lesa D
Lesa D13 days ago

thank you Alicia...

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Christine V
Christine V13 days ago

Sadly noted

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. Dabout a month ago

SAD SIGH! Another day, another sad and destructive story. And the central character in all of these stories is tRUMP. Jack of NO trades but the master of destruction.

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Paula M
Paula Aabout a month ago

thank you

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Hannah A
Hannah Aabout a month ago

thank you for posting

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Michael Friedmann
Michael Fabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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