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Environmentalists Sue For Coastal Turtle Protection

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They're trying to get the federal government to make good on a proposal to expand protections for endangered western Pacific leatherback sea turtles.

Todd Steiner heads the Turtle Island Restoration Network. He says the turtles are being killed because industrial fishing companies are using "drift gill" nets.   

"…primarily in Southern California but stretching all the way up here. And they're set primarily to catch swordfish. So the target species is swordfish but they're incredibly devastating to a large number of marine mammals, sea turtles and non-targeted fish that are caught in the nets."

The endangered leatherbacks swim from Indonesia to the U.S. West Coast to lay eggs. Steiner says the government agreed back in January 2010 to create the safety zone rules within a year.

The lawsuit claims federal government missed a deadline to designate 70,000 square miles off the Pacific Coast as a turtle safety zone.

Christine Patrick with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service says they are "very close" to issuing a final rule on critical habitat.

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