This year 322 sea turtles have been found dead in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, a surprising number when compared to the average 97 sea turtles that wash up on these state's beaches annually.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has done nothing to enhance the protection of already-endangered sea turtles, so conservation groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Defenders of Wildlife are finally taking a stand, in hopes of lowering these horrific numbers.
On May 31, these groups notified the NOAA Fisheries of their intent to sue the agency as well as the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama due to their lack of protection to endangered sea turtles. Sea turtles continue to become entangled in fishing nets or drown in shrimp trawls, and the number of deaths continue to rise. Since turtles may already be weakened because of the oil spills, they are now even more likely to get caught in fishing nets and drown.
Even one year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, much still needs to be done on the Gulf Coast to improve its waters and surrounding areas. Jaclyn Lopez, Staff Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity explained that the sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico who happened to be lucky enough to survive the oil spill, were instead dying in fishing nets. "Killing endangered sea turtles is unacceptable and will drive them to extinction," she said. "This lawsuit is a clarion call to the Fisheries Service: Sea turtles need emergency action now to save them."
David Godfrey, executive director at the Sea Turtle Conservancy had more to add on the issue. “Sea turtles are dying needlessly in shrimp nets because the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Gulf states are not enforcing the regulations developed more than 20 years ago to stop these drownings," he said. "For numerous reasons, the federal government should be very concerned that Gulf fishermen are not meeting U.S. turtle protection standards.”
Under The Endangered Species Act, the NOAA Fisheries is required to protect and conserve any endangered species.
With this warning to the NOAA Fisheries, maybe they will work to keep the remaining sea turtles alive before the lawsuit actually takes place, or before it's too late.