August 6, 2014

Lawsuit would force agencies to
manage recreational turtle bycatch

Two commercial fishing organizations yesterday filed litigation in U.S. District Court in Raleigh alleging that several agencies and their representatives have failed to abide by the Endangered Species Act  in the protection of sea turtles.

The fishing groups ask that state and federal agencies be ordered to implement regulations to manage the incidental take of threatened and endangered sea turtles by recreational fishermen.

Plaintiffs are the North Carolina Fisheries Association, Inc, and the Carteret County Fisherman's Association, Inc., both non-profit trade associations of commercial fishermen, seafood dealers, and processors.

The listed defendants are Penny Pritzker, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior; Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Daniel Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; John Skvarla, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources; Dr. Louis Daniel, Executive Director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, and Gordon Myers, Executive Director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

The complaint requests that the court rule that the defendants have violated and continue to violate Section 9 of the ESA and have allowed the recreational hook-and-line fishery to "operate in a manner that has caused and is continuing to cause the illegal take of endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles and the unauthorized take of threatened loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles". 

The plaintiffs further request that the court order the defendants to implement regulations in the recreational hook-and-line fishery until they receive an incidental take permit, and, further, for the federal agencies to conduct abundance surveys and nesting population surveys. 

The groups filed a letter of intent to sue in March of this year.

The complaint states that the defendants have long realized that the recreational hook-and -line fishery has been in violation of the ESA, yet have failed to take any action to prevent the illegal take of sea turtles in the fishery. 

On the other hand, commercial fishermen have been required to adhere to a number of measures in efforts to protect sea turtles, including regulations on shrimping, large mesh gill nets, and the longline fishery.

Click here to read a copy of the lawsuit.

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