SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Environmentalists claim the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to protect endangered sea turtles from longline fishing off the coast of California. The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network claim the federal government “unreasonably delayed” protections for leatherback and loggerhead turtles, and designating critical habitat for them.
The groups say the turtles are primarily imperiled by the fishing industry, “as fishery managers have proposed expanding a number of domestic pelagic longline fisheries in the Pacific, including in the proposed critical habitat area.”
Plaintiffs say fewer than 1,000 nesting female loggerheads survive, due in great part to trapping and killing by commercial fisheries from the United States, Japan and China. Longline fishing involves miles of baited hooks, which can catch and drown the turtles.
Scientists have predicted the extinction of the Pacific leatherback turtle “within a matter of decades if threats are not addressed,” according to the complaint.
Defendants – including the Department of the Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service – have not responded within the required 12 months to plaintiffs’ petitions to designate Pacific Ocean waters as protected critical habitat. Plaintiffs say the feds’ refusal to act is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.
The environmentalists demand declaratory judgment and an injunction.