Your help is needed now to reverse a decision by the U. S. government to increase the number of sea turtles that Hawaiian longline fishing can catch or kill in their pursuit of swordfish. Sea turtles in the Pacific are in danger of being driven to extinction from fisheries bycatch. The survival of each adult is critical to their continued existence!
Leatherback captures - increased from 16 to 20 per year.
Loggerhead captures - increased from 17 to 34 per year.
Leatherbacks have declined 95% in the Pacific, and loggerheads are now up-listed as "endangered" by the Endangered Species Act after being "threatened" for over a decade. This horrific decline is primary due to the death of adult sea turtles in commercial fishing gear. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project and our Hawaiian allies are challenging this decision in court and need additional public pressure to sway the federal rulemakers. Please check the "Opt-In" box to the right when signing to connect with us and stay informed!
The U.S. seafood industry should not be catching more swordfish. Fewer people are eating swordfish than ever before because it is so contaminated with mercury. Women and children are warned by the U.S. FDA to never eat swordfish! Putting profits before the protecting public health and sustaining ocean health is outlandish and irresponsible.
The weakening of protections for sea turtles in the fishery contradicts findings from your own scientists at National Marine Fisheries Service that Pacific loggerheads are at risk of extinction due in large part to capture in longline fisheries. They are now listed as endangered.
More than 50 percent of what’s caught in the Hawaii longline fishery is not swordfish, but sea turtles, humpback whales, false killer whales, seabirds and vulnerable fish species including sharks and big eye and yellow fin tuna.
A federal court previously closed the fishery down for four years due to excessive capture of sea turtles, but reopened in 2004 with requirements to use experimental circle hook technology and special bait that the government claimed would drastically reduce the injury and mortality of sea turtles.
However, even with the modified gear, the fishery was closed down early in March 2006 and 2011 for capturing its limit of endangered sea turtles.
Fewer than 5,000 nesting western Pacific leatherbacks remain and only 1,500 North Pacific loggerheads still nest. With declines of more than 90 percent for these leatherbacks and 80 percent decline of the loggerheads, there is no scientific justification to increase the death toll for these species as they swim across the ocean.
Even worse, half the U.S. population - women and children - are warned by the FDA to never eat swordfish due to high mercury levels. That's why Americans are eating less swordfish than ever before.
President Obama, please reverse this terrible action by your federal fisheries agency before the swordfish fleet, with its millions more longline hooks, makes an irreversible impact on sea turtles in USA waters offshore of your birthplace in Hawaii.