Saturday, Dec. 4

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U.N. report: Closing fisheries saves
sea turtles    
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[DEC. 4, 2004]  FOREST KNOLLS, Calif. -- A new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has repeated the recommendation of an earlier panel of experts that immediate attention be given to the plight of critically endangered Pacific leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. Among recommendations to address the threat of extinction of leatherback and loggerheads, the report recommended that fisheries posing the greatest threats should be closed, fishing capacity and effort reduced, and financial support directed toward developing countries to support conservation efforts. The Food and Agriculture Organization met from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in Bangkok, Thailand, to consider these recommendations.

"If the FAO has the courage to act on its own recommendation, we could prevent the extinction of a species," said Robert Ovetz, Ph.D., the "Save the Leatherback" campaign coordinator with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. "The single most important action the FAO can take is supporting a Pacificwide moratorium on destructive longline fishing," he added.

This call for closures echoes statements made by 622 scientists from 54 countries and representatives of 173 nongovernmental organizations from 35 countries, urging the United Nations to take immediate action to protect leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles by implementing a Pacificwide moratorium on gillnets and longlines. Among the scientists who have signed the appeal are the famed biologist E.O. Wilson and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

Nesting female Pacific leatherbacks have declined by 95 percent since 1980. A recent study in the scientific journal Ecology Letters estimates that 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks are caught each year worldwide by longlines. Scientists have warned that Pacific leatherbacks could go extinct within the next five to 20 years unless immediate action is taken to reverse their slide into oblivion. One of those actions is to impose a Pacificwide moratorium on longline fishing.

"Unfortunately, the report places the responsibility for implementing these closures and reductions in effort and capacity on the regional fisheries management organizations rather than endorsing the need for a Pacificwide moratorium," says Ovetz. "This will help neither sea turtles nor the 4.4 million other animals caught and killed by longlines in the Pacific every year. We need a single multilateral commitment to implement these closures."

Two weeks ago, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project released "Pillaging the Pacific," a report that estimated that about 4.4 million sharks, billfish, whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine species are maimed and killed by longlines each year in the Pacific alone. Closing these destructive fisheries will also protect these species.

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In fact, the regional fisheries management organizations cover only a small fraction of the vast oceans, leaving about 60 percent unregulated. Because the threat facing sea turtles is global, urgent global solutions are needed.

Resources

[To download the Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF files, click here.]

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is an international marine environmental organization headquartered in Forest Knolls, Calif., with offices in Costa Rica and Texas. The organization focuses on protecting and restoring marine wildlife in ways that address the needs of local communities. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is a project of Turtle Island Restoration Network, which also sponsors the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network to protect endangered coho salmon.

See www.seaturtles.org and www.savetheleatherback.com for more information.

[News release from the Sea Turtle Restoration Project]

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