WASHINGTON – Today, Oceana reinitiated a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as a result of the Trump administration’s failure to finalize new protections for sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Every year, the federal government allows shrimp trawls in the Southeast to kill thousands of sea turtles. In the settlement finalized in September 2016, the federal government agreed to release a proposed rule to protect these sea turtles by December 15, 2016 and if final regulations were not released by June 15, 2017, Oceana retained the option to reinitiate the litigation. The final rule has not yet been released.
“At this point, every single day of delay means more threatened and endangered sea turtles dying preventable deaths in fishing nets,” said Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder. “In the spirit of cooperation with the federal government to ensure the best possible final rule, Oceana purposefully held off from taking action when the Trump administration missed its deadline to finalize these protections. All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable.”
The proposed rule released in December would require Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) – metal grates inserted into shrimp nets that allow sea turtles and other ocean wildlife to escape – in U.S. skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls, which would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year. Less than half of the U.S. shrimp fleet is currently required to use TEDs; however, the proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats in the region currently exempted.
These proposed regulations were developed as a direct response to the 2015 Oceana lawsuit alleging that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to 1) determine whether shrimp fishing in the Southeast region puts sea turtles at risk of extinction, 2) monitor the impact of shrimp fishing on sea turtles, and 3) set a limit on how many sea turtles can be caught and killed.