Enviros Seek Greater Protection for Sea Turtles Imperiled by BP’s Oil Spill

For Immediate Release

Turtle Island Restoration Network
Contact: 

Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 ext. 103
Carole Allen, Gulf Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network (281) 444-6204, cell, 281-455-4415
Miyoko Sakashita, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 632-5308
Deborah Sivas, Director, Stanford Law School (650) 723-0325
Sea turtle B-roll and photos available (415) 663-8590 ext. 103

Enviros Seek Greater Protection for Sea Turtles Imperiled by BP’s Oil Spill

HOUSTON, Texas - With BP's
massive oil spill in the Gulf pushing rare sea turtles closer than ever
to
extinction, two environmental groups today petitioned the federal
government
for an emergency extension of the shrimp fishery seasonal closure. The
closure
is scheduled to expire Thursday, July 15. The groups also asked the
National
Marine Fisheries Service to conduct an analysis required by the
Endangered
Species Act before allowing the fishery to open as usual to determine
whether
sea turtles would be jeopardized.
Download the 60-day Notice Letter.

"The government needs to ensure that sea turtles are adequately
protected
when the shrimp season opens," said Deborah A. Sivas, Professor of
Environmental Law and Director of Stanford Environmental Law Clinic,
which is
representing California-and Texas-based Turtle Island Restoration
Network, and
the Center for Biological Diversity.

More than 600 sea turtles have been reported killed or injured since the
Gulf
spill, and scientists believe this is a tiny fraction of these
endangered
species that have and will be killed by the disastrous 86-day oil spill
that
continues to pollute the Gulf.  Thousands of adults and hatchlings are
leaving their nesting sites and are believed to be heading directly into
the
spill.

Scientists are concerned that until BP is able to ensure sea turtle
survival
from the massive oil slick that other threats to turtles need to be
considered.
Shrimp fishing can kill sea turtles, when the air-breathing animals are
caught
in the nets and prevented from surfacing to breathe. Shrimp fishing is
recognized as the annual leading cause of mortality to adult turtles
from
industrial fishing activities in the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the
world.
To ensure the long-term viability of shrimp and fishing in the Gulf,
precautions are needed now. The economic loss shrimpers face from the
Deep
Horizon oil spill should be fully compensated by BP, including any new
restrictions that result that are necessary to prevent the extinction of
sea
turtles in the Gulf.

Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island
Restoration
Network said, "Right now, we need to be protecting the remaining fish
and
wildlife in the Gulf, so it can provide a genetic pool for wildlife to
re-colonize once this mess is cleaned up. This is not the time to be
short-sighted and selfish to both future generations of fishers and the
American public by vacuuming up all the life that has survived the oil
disaster."  

"Sea turtles now face the double-whammy of perishing in the horrendous
oil spill or drowning in shrimp nets, and together these threats may
push some
of the species into extinction in the Gulf," said Carole Allen, Gulf of
Mexico director for Turtle Island Restoration Network in Houston,
Texas. 
"We won't sit idly and allow this to happen without a fight to
ensure everything is done to give these ancient species a fighting
chance."

Sea turtles have been present in the Gulf for tens of millions of years,
having
out-survived the threats that caused the extinction of dinosaurs, but
all U.S.
species now find themselves on the endangered species list, due to human
impacts that include fishing, oil spills, other pollutants and poaching.

"Hundreds of sea turtles have already been found dead in the Gulf since
the spill, and all of these turtles were already nearing extinction. 
Endangered sea turtles need every bit of protection available to secure
their
survival," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for
Biological Diversity, "BP is the bad guy here and owes it to shrimpers
to
make them financially whole, we support those efforts and urge BP to do
the
right thing."

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