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Indybay Feature
Tue Jun 11 2024 (Updated 06/13/24)
Fishery’s Expansion Threatens Endangered Leatherbacks
Only a Couple of Thousand Adult Leatherback Turtles Remain in the Pacific Ocean
In an inexplicable move, the National Marine Fisheries Service has allowed a little known fishery that targets bottom-dwelling sablefish, also known as black cod or butterfish, to expand into federally designated habitat for critically endangered Pacific leatherback turtles. The West Coast sablefish pot fishery places fish trap pots on the bottom of the ocean attached by a rope to a floating buoys on the surface. The fishery's lines can wrap around sea turtles’ necks or front flippers, anchoring them to the heavy pots on the seafloor, resulting in injuries and deaths.

The new fishery expansion allows this deadly gear into crucial feeding areas for leatherbacks previously designated as leatherback conservation areas off the coasts of Oregon and California that have been closed to net driftnet fishing since the early 2000s. Nearly 2,000 square miles of the newly opened areas are in leatherback sea turtle critical habitat, including within Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.

With only a couple of thousand adult leatherbacks left in the Pacific, every single leatherback is critical to the survival of the species. New technology can save the lives of whales and turtles in many pot fisheries including lobster, crab and fish pot fisheries throughout the US. Unfortunately, fisheries are reluctant to switch gears.

photo Fishery’s Expansion Threatens Endangered Leatherbacks Off California | pdf Lawsuit Aims to Protect Pacific Sea Turtles From Fishing Gear

See Also: photo California Protects Leatherback Sea Turtles as Endangered | photo California Agency Recommends Listing Leatherback Sea Turtles as Endangered | photo Feds: High Extinction Risk for All Seven Leatherback Sea Turtle Populations | photo International Red List Ranks Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtles as Critically Endangered | photo Last Journey for the Leatherback?
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