May 29, 2009

Environmental groups sue to save turtles

The world's oldest sea turtles -- leatherbacks and loggerheads -- will become extinct unless U.S. agencies do more to protect them, a lawsuit says.

To save the turtles, the Obama administration must alter the policies set by former President George W. Bush, said Todd Steiner, executive director of the California-based Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Otherwise, we will lose these magnificent animals in our life, Steiner said.

The western Pacific leatherbacks swim from Indonesia to California to forage for food, while the North Pacific loggerheads swim from the Japanese archipelago to feed from Alaska to Baja, Mexico, Steiner said.

The turtles are at risk of capture and injury off California and Oregon, a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in San Francisco said.

Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration want the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restrict gillnet and longline fishing, oil drilling and under-water energy turbines, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

An estimated 1,000 nesting female North Pacific loggerheads remain in the world while the nesting female population of western Pacific leatherbacks is estimated at between 2,000 to 5,700, the Chronicle reported.

In response to the lawsuit, the fisheries agency said more time was needed to determine what must be done to protect the turtles.