Turtles and Trade Background:
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project's fight to protect the critically endangered Kemp's ridley turtle from drowning in the nets of shrimpers around the world led Todd Steiner and the organization to fight the WTO. After a hard-won battle to pass an adaptation to the Endangered requiring nations that export their shrimp here to use a simple "Turtle Excluder Devise" in their nets, four nations with large industrial fishing fleets challenged the US Endangered Species Act as a violation of so-called "Free-Trade" at the WTO Court.
In secret, closed door sessions, which allowed virtually no public participation from scientists, the international environmental community or the public, the WTO ruled that this US law was, in fact, an unfair trade barrier.
With this negative ruling in place at the WTO Court, the US government agreed to come into compliance with WTO rules, and the US State Department eagerly began to eviscerate one of the U.S.'s and possibly the world's most important laws to protect the environment and endangered wildlife.
This issue provided a concrete example of the very real threat to U.S. sovereign environmental laws by the WTO. Protesters and activists highlighted the peaceful symbol of the sea turtle as they took to the Seattle streets to nonviolently oppose the 1999 WTO conference.
The issue of whether the WTO could overrule the U.S. Turtle-Shrimp law made its way through the U.S. courts for nearly two decades, with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and its director, Todd Steiner, as the primary plaintiffs. Finally, it was decided that the U.S. law should stand, but the requirements of the shrimping nations were severely watered down.
Today, while this U.S. law has been protected, turtles are still dying in shrimpers' nets around the world. Even shrimp imported to the U.S. contributes to their deaths, due to lack of strict enforcement of the Turtle-Shrimp law in other nations, and even here in our own shrimping fleet. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project continues to fight to protect sea turtles from the impacts of industrial fishing, and to fight the injustices and environmental harm caused in name of "free trade".
Filmmaker Stuart Townsend's vivid and eloquent dramatization employs a talented ensemble cast to personalize the issues at hand, from the perspectives of activist/organizers (played by Andre Benjamin, Jennifer Carpenter, Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez) to the beleaguered mayor (Ray Liotta) and those caught in the crossfire, including a riot cop (Woody Harrelson), his pregnant wife (Charlize Theron), a television news reporter (Connie Nielsen) and delegates from developing countries (Isaach De Bankolé, Rade Sherbedzija).
While most of his characters are fictional, filmmaker Townsend integrates actual footage of the events to portray the story as truthfully as possible and depict the activities from many different points of view, even providing a compact overview of the diverse issues within the anti-globalization movement. The result is both successful drama as well as an illustration that, even against incredible odds, ordinary people can change the world. Rated R for language and some violence. Camera: Barry Ackroyd. Writer/Producer/Director: Stuart Townsend. (US 2007) 99 min. Battle in Seattle is rated R for language and some violent situations.
About the Sea Turtle Restoration Project
STRP's mission is to protect populations of threatened marine species in ways that meet the ecological needs of the species and the needs of local communities who share habitats with these imperiled species.
Key accomplishments of STRP include:
November 2006 STRP working with other environmental groups prevented the reopening of the drift-gillnet fishing into protected areas off the Northern California and Southern Oregon coasts.
July 2006 STRP and and Costa Rican group PRETOMA successfully work to create new wildlife refuge for leatherback and olive ridley sea turtles in Costa Rica.
June 2006 TIRN organized over 1,000 scientists from nearly 100 countries and over 280 NGO's to call for the United Nations to place a moratorium on high seas industrial longline fishing to prevent the Pacific leatherback sea turtle extinction
October 2005 Under pressure from GotMercury.org ,Safeway, the nation's fifth largest grocery store chain, expanded its mercury in seafood health warnings nationwide.
August 2003 STRP legal action leads to federal court ruling that California high seas longline fishery is violating the Endangered Species Act, and the fishery is banned in 2004
April 2002 STRP convenes the International Leatherback Survival Conference where scientists call for a moratorium on Pacific longlining and gillnetting.
June 2000 STRP and two other environmental groups close 2 million square miles of ocean to Hawaii-based longliners as a result of successive court orders.
November 1999 STRP's campaign on the impacts of economic globalization on sea turtles culminates at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle where 240 people dress in sea turtle costumes to protest in the streets
July 1994 STRP successfully pressured Japan to end its Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) reservation on continuing trade in sea turtles
May 1990 Organized international pressure on Mexico to end the commercial killing of sea turtles, including the annual slaughter of 50,000 endangered turtles and to join the CITES.
Today, STRP is a project of the nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network, which works to take swift and decisive action to protect and restore marine and aquatic species and their habitats and to inspire people in communities all over the world to join us as active and vocal advocates.