US Commission on Ocean Policy Report Addresses Plight of Endangered Sea Turtles

The US Commission on Ocean Policy, "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century" to be has made significant changes in its final report to President Bush on Monday, September 20, 2004 that will benefit endangered sea turtles. From among 800 public comments on the preliminary report, the commission specifically addressed comments by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project that too little attention was being paid to sea turtles being pushed to the brink of extinction by industrial longline fishing and that nationwide attention be given to high levels of methylmercury in seafood.

"While the commission stopped short of endorsing the call of nearly 700 international scientists to implement a moratorium on longline fishing in the Pacific, it did significantly address the need for stronger conservation measures to protect sea turtles," explained Robert Ovetz, PhD, Sea Turtle Restoration Project Save the Leatherback Campaign Coordinator.

The commission added a new section to Part VI Ocean Vitality: Enhancing the Use and Protection of Ocean Resources about the connection between oceans and human health while "focusing on seafood safety."

"This is excellent news for the 630,000 children are born each year with enough methyl mercury in their blood to put them at risk of brain damage," said Andy Peri, Marine Species Analyst with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. "We need nationwide mandatory warnings to inform pregnant, nursing and expectant mothers about the need to choose safe seafood."

While the commission did address these two issues, it failed to respond to other crucial comments to end conflicts of interest on the regional fisheries management councils. Such conflicts of interest have helped push our fisheries to the brink of collapse. The commission also refused to make changes in response to a significant number of comments on the proposed refinement of the definition of harassment for marine mammals. This rule change would subject endangered marine mammals to the phenomenon: "kill first, get the permit later."

To learn more, please go to www.seaturtles.org, www.gotmercury.org, www.savetheleatherback.com