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Fisheries Commission Fails to Act to Save Sea Turtles

US and Pacific Island’s Plan is Sabotaged by Japan

Pohnpei, Micronesia – This week Japan undermined the new Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s initiative to protect endangered sea turtles. Japan’s delegation rebuffed calls by the United States, Forum Fisheries Agency (an organization of Pacific island states), United Nations, the FAO and environmentalists to implement a mandatory plan to reduce the injury and killing of endangered sea turtles by longline fishing in the Pacific. Some of the last remaining leatherback beaches lie in the management area of the Commission and the turtle is documented to migrate throughout the area.

“Due to obstruction by the Japanese delegation, the comprehensive plan proposed by the United States and the Forum Fisheries Agency to protect endangered sea turtles from longlines was not passed as a mandatory measure to be implemented by all member states,” said Robert Ovetz, Ph.D. Save the Leatherback Campaign Coordinator of the US based Sea Turtle Restoration Project who is attending the second meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Micronesia this week. Although Article 61(c) requires that the Commission adopt plans to protect non-target species such as sea turtles from destructive fishing practices such as longlines, the Japanese delegation managed to amend the proposed plan to make it voluntary.

On November 28th, the United Nations General Assembly passed a sustainable fisheries resolution that calls for closures of fishing in areas where large numbers of critically endangered sea turtles are caught or killed as a compromise to calls for a moratorium. The critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle is on the verge of extinction and is expected by scientists to go extinct in the next 5-30 years unless immediate measures to eliminate threats posed by industrial longline fishing are taken.

“We were hopeful that the fisheries commission would have resisted the economic bullying of Japan and come up with a reasonable compromise that protects sea turtles and permits longline fishing. The UN will now have no option but to seriously consider the need for a moratorium on longline fishing in the Pacific. Japan’s behavior as an environmental pariah has left us with no other options,” said Ovetz.

Earlier this year, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project delivered a letter to the UN signed by 1,007 scientists from 97 countries and 281 non-governmental organizations from 64 countries urging it to implement a moratorium on high seas industrial longline fishing in the Pacific. The list of signers includes famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and former U.S. astronaut Bernard Harris, Jr. M.D.

Resources:

• For a copy of our position statement on the sea turtle resolution being considered by the Commission go to:
downloads/STRP.WCPFCPosStat.pdf

• For a copy of our recommendations and proposal for time and area closures along sea turtle migration routes being delivered at the WCPFC go to:
downloads/ACF165.pdf
downloads/ACF167.pdf

• For a copy of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s new book Striplining the Pacific on the impact of longline fishing on the Pacific leatherback go to: http://www.seaturtles.org/press_release2.cfm?pressID=259

• For a copy of the scientist and NGO letters to the UN calling for a moratorium on longline fishing in the Pacific go to: http://www.seaturtles.org/press_release2.cfm?pressID=261

• For a review copy of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s new documentary film Last Journey for the Leatherback? contact Robert Ovetz, PhD at 415 488 0370 x 106.

Photo/Dcrjsr