TURTLES in current news: Poaching and Deadly Nets

Dec 05 2011

Sea turtles have been making headlines recently but, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons! Several poached giant sea turtles were found on a fishing boat in Philippine waters on Friday. Meanwhile in New Orleans, wildlife protection groups are suing a federal agency for failing to prevent hundreds of sea turtles from drowning in shrimp nets!

Six Chinese fishermen are being charged with poaching endangered sea turtles, in a court in the Philippines. Authorities discovered the poached sea turtles when they stopped the Chinese fishermen’s boat on Friday near the western province of Palawan. Criminal charges are being filed under the Philippines’ Wildlife Act and Fisheries Code and are an attempt by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development to enforce wildlife protection along the Philippine coast.

Nine of the sea turtles were dead when the boat was discovered; the remaining three were tagged and then released alive back into the water. The sea turtles, known as Chelonia mydas, are endangered because of over harvesting of eggs and adults. The turtles are used for food and traditional medicine. They grow to be as long as 5 feet and weigh as much as 290 pounds.                                                         

If found guilty, the fishermen will face up to 24 years in prison. A similar case from last year of a Chinese fishermen’s speedboat found in the same area with 50 poached sea turtles, is still ongoing.
Check out pictures and more info here

In New Orleans on Thursday, several wildlife protection groups filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service, claiming that the federal agency has violated the Endangered Species Act by exempting some shrimping operations from installing turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their shrimp nets. The plaintiffs include the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

By exempting shrimping operations from using TEDs, the plaintiffs claim that the federal agency has allowed hundreds of turtles to drown in shrimp nets.  According to the wildlife groups, as much 1,400 dead and injured sea turtles have washed ashore this year and  industrial shrimping has been the leading cause of sea turtle death for several generations.  TEDS are mandatory in most Federal and State waters but some areas are exempt under certain conditions, such as in Louisiana where enforcement of TEDs in state waters is prohibited by a 1987 law. 

The plaintiffs are pushing for a court order that will require the use of TEDs in all shrimping operations which includes that the agency will suspend any vessel that does not use a TED and to close all fisheries until action is taken.

The federal agency has not commented much on the lawsuit but stated last month that they have spent time and energy ensuring that shrimping fisheries along the Gulf Coast were using the TEDs. The shrimping industry has added that they have made an effort to comply with TED requirements but that the recent sea turtle deaths occurred during a time of little or no shrimping activity. Find more info on this current event here

Pictured are Turtles escaping from nets through turtle exclusion devices 


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