Environmental groups file federal suit seeking green sea turtle habitat protections

Three conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday, 8 January, against the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, claiming it has not done enough to protect green sea turtle habitats across the country from a variety of threats.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Sea Turtle Oversight Protection claim NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined nearly four years ago that the turtles still required protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of threats from climate change and rising sea levels.

However, those agencies, both of whom are responsible for administering the act, have yet to protect habitat areas, including low-lying nesting beaches.

The nonprofit groups want the federal agencies to designate areas along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Without those designations, commercial activities, including commercial fishing, continue to threaten the turtle population.

Commercial fishing activities would be prohibited from areas with a critical habitat designation.

“Designated habitat would identify the most important areas for green sea turtles and provide a layer of protection preventing its destruction,” the lawsuit states. “The green sea turtle remains at risk until the Services fulfill their statutory duties to designate the critical habitat necessary to support the turtle’s survival and recovery.”

A CBD study found that most marine species protected under the ESA are in recovery, and those species with protected habitats are the most likely to rebound.

“It’s a shame that we’ve been forced into a lawsuit yet again. Green sea turtles have been around for over 65 million years, but now all green sea turtle populations are in danger of extinction,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, in a statement. “We have the power to protect them, but only if we use the full extent of our environmental laws to do so. We hope this lawsuit finally pushes the federal government to give these incredible creatures the protections they deserve so they can continue to survive for millions of years more.”  

Photo courtesy of Shane Myers Photography/Shutterstock 


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