A US environmental group filed suit Friday against the Donald Trump administration for allegedly stalling on a deal to protect sea turtles from getting trapped in shrimp nets. Oceana relaunched its lawsuit against the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — who also heads the US Fisheries Service — after no action was taken on a deal struck in September 2016.
Then, the federal government, headed by President Barack Obama, had agreed to release a proposed rule to protect sea turtles in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by December 15, 2016. But Trump took office in January 2017, and the final regulations were not released by the mid-June 2017 deadline, so Oceana pressed ahead with its lawsuit Friday.
“At this point, every single day of delay means more threatened and endangered sea turtles dying preventable deaths in fishing nets,” said Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder. “All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable.”
The proposed rule would require special escape hatches for turtles in US skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls. Oceana said adding these Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to shrimp nets would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year.
Less than half of the US shrimp fleet is currently required to use them. The proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats in the southeast US region. The agreement to add more TEDs came after a 2015 Oceana lawsuit that alleged the US government had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately consider the risk posed to sea turtles by shrimp fishing.