U.N. report: Closing fisheries saves
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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
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.
[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.
www.savetheleatherback.com for more information.
[News release from the
Sea Turtle Restoration Project]