Washington - World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Ocean Conservancy (TOC) today praised the unanimous support of both houses and the subsequent White House endorsement of the Marine Turtle Conservation Act, which will authorize up to $5 million a year for projects to safeguard and conserve marine turtles and their nesting habitats in foreign countries.
"Signing the Marine Turtle Conservation Act into law ensures that the successes of ongoing conservation efforts here in the United States are not lost when the endangered turtles leave our shores," said Brooks Yeager, vice president of WWF's Global Threats program. "We are very confident that once Congress appropriates money, the act will advance conservation goals, strengthen conservation partnerships, leverage significant resources from private and other sources, and build goodwill abroad."
"This act is a triumph for sea turtles," said Marydele Donnelly, a sea turtle biologist with The Ocean Conservancy. "From Africa to Asia to Latin America, dedicated biologists and community activists are working under difficult and dangerous conditions to save sea turtles from extinction. The act will provide funding to stop poaching and other harmful activities," she said.
WWF and TOC applauded Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), and James Jeffords (I-VT) and Representatives Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Richard Pombo (R-CA), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), for sponsoring the bill and for giving political muscle to this important issue. The organizations also acknowledged the support of Wildlife Conservation Society, American Zoological Association, National Fisheries Institute, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Defenders of Wildlife, Oceana, Conservation International, Humane Society of the United States, and the National Audubon Society.
Notes to Editors:
- Marine turtles around the globe are in serious trouble. This is especially true for the giant leatherback turtles, which can grow to eight feet long and swim across ocean basins, feeding on jellyfish. In the Pacific, leatherback populations have declined by more than 90 percent in the last two decades.
- Six of the world's seven marine turtle species are endangered or critically endangered - as classified by the IUCN-World Conservation Union Red List - and are listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. All seven are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning that international trade in their parts and products is prohibited.
- Marine turtles are hunted for their meat, shell, oil, leather and eggs, which many cultures believe to have aphrodisiac properties, and collect for eating. Habitats key to the turtles survival are rapidly being degraded. Marine turtles are also killed as bycatch in longline, trawl, and gillnet fisheries.
- Scientists have warned that turtles must be protected in the water and on the beach if they are to survive. Recent advances in longline fishing gear and methods, especially the use of circle hooks, show promise for dramatically reducing marine turtles' bycatch mortality rate in the very near future.