Thursday, September 3, 2009

Loggerhead Sea Turtles Continue Their Precipitous Decline


WASHINGTON – It's a scene that scientists say is all too common: A commercial fishing boat pulls in a net full of shrimp or tuna and finds a loggerhead sea turtle mixed in with the catch.

Biologists like Matthew Godfrey say one or two such takings can happen every day among fishing fleets off the Southeast coast. Those numbers can add up to thousands annually for a turtle species that has traveled the oceans for 200 million years but now faces a growing array of threats.

Godfrey is among the authors of the latest federal report on loggerheads that says most groups of the ancient reptile are at risk of extinction — in large part due to increased commercial fishing.
This is not a good news story on which to start your day!

Although I have not seen the report, the fact that state resource agencies, including highly political Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, contributed authors to it, attests to the seriousness of the issue. I know that a year ago there was great concern expressed for Loggerhead Sea Turtles along Florida's west coast because no matter what was being tried the number of nests just kept declining. Now we have these results that can be used to guide future management of the species.

Dividing the Loggerhead population into nine populations makes a lot of sense biologically. Its akin to what was done with some of the salmon on the Pacific coast of the United States and Canada. It creates confusion for the public because activities are restricted in one place and allowed in others (for instance).

However when you are dealing with a creature that has been around for 200 million years the last thing that should be guiding decisions is how a few humans are affected or displaced.

Just look out the window along any part of the coast here in Florida and its quickly obvious to most who won the war - and it wasn't the sea turtles.

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