This Month's Top Commentators

  • Be the first to comment.

The Best Voter Lists Available

PunditHouse Store

Fishermen to Sue Government in Battle Over Rights


obxCommercialSceneTwo North Carolina commercial fishing associations have announced their intent to file a lawsuit against several NC and federal regulatory agencies over their method of implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

The groups feel that the currently implemented sea turtle protection mandates are narrowly targeted at the commercial fishing sector while other sectors known to impact sea turtles, such as hook and line fisheries, are exempted from the law by selective non-enforcement. The notice of intent to sue communicates the need for a sea turtle stock assessment in order to evaluate whether the turtles should still be considered endangered.

The North Carolina Fisheries Association, a party to the lawsuit, says that it is not their intention to eliminate sea turtle protections, but they ask that necessary turtle protection regulations are evaluated and applied across the board.  “While we believe a stock assessment will show that sea turtles are at, or near recovery, we in no way are suggesting that no protection is needed,” says Jerry Schill, Interim Executive Director of NCFA. “We are actually advocating more (requirements) for those engaged in other activities outside of commercial fishing that negatively affect the recovery efforts we have been engaged in for almost 30 years.”

Currently, commercial trawl fishermen in NC are required to use a turtle excluder device (TED), a device which allows for a turtle that becomes captured in the net to be released into the ocean without contact from the fisherman.  “A commercial fisherman can’t touch a turtle. … We’re not certified,” says Mikey Daniels, owner of Wanchese Fish Company. Daniels says that the TEDs also cause the fishermen to lose what they are targeting for capture in some instances, making applications such as flounder fishing incompatible with TED use. He thinks that there are better alternatives to the current protection methods required by the federal government.

“(The Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue Center) had several different things that they wanted to try. They had a silhouette of a shark and they would put that by … the net. They had another that had (light) sticks. They would put night lights in them, trying to deter the turtles. Some of these studies they’d come up with had worked. Forty to fifty percent reductions,” says Daniels.

The NC “observer program” is another currently implemented mandate for turtle protection compliance. The program requires that commercial fishermen allow for enforcement officer attendance aboard their vessel for the duration of a fishing trip. The observing officer monitors the marine catch and notes any turtles that are incidentally captured. Inconveniences caused by the observer program, such as increased commercial licensing fees for observer funding and overcrowding on smaller boats, have heightened tensions between regulators and fishermen.

“What would be better, if you really wanted to save the turtles, if you wanted to help things, take the fishermen and  train them how to handle a turtle. How to take care of them,” says Mikey Daniels. “That way you don’t have anybody mad at the turtles. It’s like if you have a cat at your back door that’s hurt, you’ll try to take care of him, try to feed him. Then it becomes close to you. It’s common sense.”

The Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina (CCA-NC), an environmentalist sport-fishing advocacy interest often at odds with the commercial fishing sector, released a statement on the intent notice. The CCA-NC asserts that the commercial fishing groups mischaracterize the threat posed to the conservation and recovery of sea turtles due to interaction from hook and line fisheries. The notice of intent to sue contends that hook and line fisheries accounted for 45% or more of NC incidental sea turtle captures in 2013, citing data from the NC Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

From the CCA-NC press release: “Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina (CCA-NC) has always been, and remains, committed to the conservation and recovery of protected sea turtles in North Carolina.  …  CCA-NC is closely monitoring this proposed lawsuit on behalf both of its members and the millions of other citizens who would be adversely affected by imposition of the unwarranted remedies Plaintiffs seek in this case, as set out in the (notice of intent).”

The NCFA reiterates the need for clearly defined objectives in turtle recovery efforts. “Without that, and with no action on our part, it’s very obvious that commercial fishermen will be asked to step up with more restrictions while others have no such scrutiny,” says Schill. “When is this going to end for us? Why are the restrictions only on us?”

The lawsuit intent notice, dated March 6, 2014, declares that litigation will be pursued if action is not taken within 60 days to correct the imbalanced enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.

Donate Now!We need your help! If you like PunditHouse, please consider donating to us. Even $5 a month can make a difference!

Short URL:

Comments are closed