One year ago today a petition was filed seeking a long-overdue critical habitat designation for the endangered Kemp’ ridley sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico. These sea turtles were included in the Endangered Species Act in 1970, and now in 2011, over 40 years later, the habitat vital to their survival has yet to be given protections. Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service are to blame, as they manage the Kemp ridley’s U.S. ocean and beach habitats, respectively. Years of data show Louisiana barrier islands are a critical feeding area and Texas nesting beaches are now part of the healthy Kemp’s ridley population.
Ironically, the petition is challenging the federal delays. Why the delays on habitat protections, and the delay in the lawsuit over the delay? I wish I knew. It seems the smallest sea turtle species on the planet is the smallest of priorities for the public agencies that could take action to protect them.
I applaud the efforts of the WildEarth Guardians, who filed the petition last year in February and then brought the issue back to court in August with a plea to end the endless delays and take action in the wake of the horrific BP oil spill. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project and its allies work every day to overcome these and many other delays in our fight to keep sea turtles from being pushed to extinction by offshore oil operations, commercial fishing, and continued habitat destruction.