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International Sea Turtle Society Calls On President Peña Nieto to stop sea turtle bycatch in Mexico
California, USA, May 6th, 2014
(letter to President Peña Nieto and resolution text follow after press release)
The International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS) passed a strongly worded resolution urging Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to stop the high rates of bycatch of endangered North Pacific loggerhead turtles in commercial fisheries operating in the Gulf of Ulloa, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The resolution was approved by hundreds of the world’s leading experts on sea turtles who were attending the the 34th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans, USA. The call to protect endangered loggerheads from commercial fisheries bycatch was directed to president Enrique Peña Nieto, Marcos Covarrubias Villaseñor, Baja California Sur governor, Juan Jose Guerra Abud, secretary of environment and natural resources, Mario Aguilar Sanchez, head of the National Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (Conapesca), Jean-Pierre Ple of the National Marine Fisheries Service and Penny Pritzker, secretary of commerce of the U.S. department of commerce.
"This is very important because the leading experts worldwide not only are recognizing that turtles die due to bycatch, but are also asking the Mexican government to take action to halt a possible extinction. Mexican Government officials have questioned the causes of mortality of loggerheads and despite the scientific evidence that it exists today, they are driving new research via a new scientific committee where there is no experts on sea turtles. The scientific evidence mentioned above is sufficient to support taking immediate actions of conservation from the government side” said Alejandro Olivera, public policy coordinator from the Mexican Center of Environmental Law (Cemda) in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
The resolution urges that 1) fisheries authorities of the Government of Mexico act immediately end the high rates of bycatch mortality and strandings of endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in gillnet and longline fisheries in the Gulf of Ulloa in Baja California Sur; 2) fisheries authorities of the Government of Mexico enforce and strengthen current fishing regulations in the Gulf of Ulloa, implement a sustainable fishery management plan, and also offer transitional support and capacity building to ensure fisher livelihoods are maintained; 3) Governments of Mexico and the United States protect the North Pacific loggerhead population from further decline and possible extinction by implementing and enforcing existing and additional sea turtle bycatch prevention regulations in both nations’ waters and supporting similar actions in international waters and on the high seas.
"As a past president of the International Sea Turtle Society I can underline the extreme international concern about what is happening in Mexico right now. Decades of collaborative, world-class research points to the fact that Baja California Sur has some of the highest bycatch rates of sea turtles globally. Despite this, sectors of the Mexican government have ignored both science and international law, putting many hard-working people in jeopardy and threatening an endangered species. Now, with this call from the world’s leading sea turtle experts, there should be no delay in efforts to protect these loggerhead turtles, " said Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences.
It should be noted that the Society’s current president, Dr. Roldan A. Valverde, reminded government officials that "Mexico and the United States have required its fishermen to adopt sea turtle bycatch prevention measures, including closing high-risk fishing areas, in many commercial fisheries. But Mexico has not yet taken similar action to curb loggerhead bycatch in the Gulf of Ulloa.”
"This administration has taken no concrete actions to end the loggerhead sea turtle slaughter in the Baja peninsula except put up smokescreen after smokescreen. Now the sea turtle experts of the world are asking the Mexican government to put a stop to the immense bycatch of loggerheads. Mexico needs to solve the problem immediately before hundreds of loggerhead sea turtles die drowned in fishers nets this summer," said Juan Carlos Cantú, Mexico's program manager of Defenders of Wildlife.
“The Pacific loggerheads are going extinct now, so we must end these sea turtle drownings now,” said Teri Shore, program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org), who drafted and sponsored the ISTS resolution. “Any delay in halting excess bycatch in Mexico’s fisheries spells doom for these vulnerable and long-lived sea turtles.”
Many loggerhead sea turtles born in Japan make a long developmental migration across the North Pacific Ocean to the west coast of North America where they feed and grow for many years before making the 7,000 mile trip back home across the Pacific. This epic journey dictates international cooperation to ensure adequate protection and recovery for these animals.
Last year the IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG - International Union for Conservation of Nature) issued a warning and called on the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, to address the high death rate of turtles off the coast of Baja California Sur.
2. - PBS Nature: Voyage of the Lonely Turtle http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/voyage-of-the-lonely-turtle/introduction/2503/
Alejandro Olivera, Cemda firstname.lastname@example.org +521 6121404974
Teri Shore, Program Director, Turtle Island Restoration Network, California, U.S. email@example.com +1 707 934 7081
Juan Carlos Cantú, Defenders of Wildlife, Mexico, firstname.lastname@example.org +52 55 5596 2108
Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto President of Mexico
Dear Mr. President Peña Nieto,
I write on behalf of the members of the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS) attending the 34th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, held in New Orleans, Louisiana USA from 10-17 April, 2014. The symposium is a unique event that in this occasion drew over 700 participants from more than 70 countries around the world, from across disciplines and cultures to a common interest and objective: the conservation of sea turtles and their environment. The Symposium encourages discussion, debate, and the sharing of knowledge, research techniques and lessons in conservation to address questions on the biology and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats.
Besides the regular sessions normally held at past Symposia, this year it featured a special session on Collaborative Fisheries and on the Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and on the eastern US Seaboard. Among the topics included in the program were marine turtle ecological interactions, linkages among scientists, coastal communities, turtles, humans, consumptive and non-consumptive use, collaborative research, community-based conservation, policy-makers and managers.
During the plenary session, the ISTS adopted the attached resolution on the urgent need to end the high incidental mortality and strandings of endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in fisheries in the Gulf of Ulloa in Baja California Sur, Mexico.
For nearly a decade, sea turtle and fishery scientists in Mexico have documented high levels of loggerhead sea turtle strandings on beaches in Baja California Sur. Scientists believe that Baja California Sur has the highest concentration of sea turtle strandings anywhere in the world. Here Mexican fishermen using gillnets and longlines to target halibut and shark overlap with key loggerhead sea turtle feeding grounds.
Last year in a single two-month period, which corresponded with the height of the fishing season, a total of 705 loggerhead turtles were found dead along the along a 40-kilometer stretch of beach in the Gulf of Ulloa, a number which represents only a fraction of the total dead during the year in just this area. While the 2013 mortality level was unprecedented, loggerhead stranding rates and overall levels at the Gulf of Ulloa have fluctuated at extremely high and unsustainable rates since at least 1996.
Loggerhead sea turtles in the North Pacific Ocean are listed as endangered under both Mexican and U.S. law, but bycatch and mortality in commercial fisheries continues to threaten their existence. Mexico and the United States have required its fishermen to adopt sea turtle bycatch prevention measures, including closing high-risk fishing areas, in many commercial fisheries. But Mexico has not yet taken similar action to curb loggerhead bycatch in the Gulf of Ulloa.
We recognize that the government of Mexico has prioritized protection of loggerheads and other sea turtle species dating back to the 1960s, so we have no doubt that the loggerhead bycatch problem in the Gulf of Ulloa can be remedied in a way that benefits marine conservation as well as preserving the livelihood of fishing communities.
Regional cooperation and collaboration in sea turtle conservation are cornerstones of international efforts to safeguard these endangered species. The interest and support of Mexico and the U.S. in ensuring that sea turtles are adequately protected within its waters will be a valuable contribution.
I thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter and would be pleased to answer any questions that you might have.
With best wishes,
Roldan A. Valverde
International Sea Turtle Society
Lic. Marcos Alberto Covarrubias Villaseñor
Gobernador de Baja California Sur (Baja California Governor) Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
Ing. Juan Jose Guerra Abud
Secretario de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Secretary of Environment & Natural Resources)
Insurgentes Sur 950,
Col. Del Valle, C.P. 03100
Mario Gilberto Aguilar Sanchez CONAPESCA
Camaron Sabalo Ave.
Sabalo Country Club. ZIP 82100, Mazatlan, Sin. Mexico
Acting Director Jean-Pierre Ple
Office of International Affairs National Marine Fisheries Service 1315 East-West Highway SSMC3, 10th Floor F/IA
Silver Springs, MD 20910, USA
Ms. Penny Pritzker
Secretary of Commerce Department of Commerce 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230, USA
ROLDAN VALVERDE (USA & COSTA RICA), PRESIDENT ROLDAN.VALVERDE@SELU.EDU
YAKUP KASKA (TURKEY), PRESIDENT-ELECT CARETTA@PAU.EDU.TR
RAY CARTHY (USA), PAST PRESIDENT NGOSI@UFL.EDU
TERRY MEYER (USA), TREASURER TOPSAILSEATURTLE@AOL.COM
MANJULA TIWARI (USA & INDIA), SECRETARY MANJULA.TIWARI@NOAA.GOV
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
ALEJANDRO FALLABRINO (URUGUAY), AFALLA7@GMAIL.COM
CYNTHIA LAGUEUX (NICARAGUA), CLAGUEUX@WCS.ORG
GEORGE BALAZS (HAWAII), GABALAZS@HONLAB.NMFS.HAWAII.EDU
JACK FRAZIER (USA), KURMA@SHENTEL.NET
JESUS TOMAS (SPAIN), JESUS.TOMAS@UV.ES
MARK HAMANN (AUSTRALIA), MARK.HAMANN@JCU.EDU.AU
PAOLO CASALE (ITALY), PAOLO.CASALE@TISCALI.IT
ALIKI PANAGOPOULOU (GREECE), ALIKI@ARCHELON.GR
PAMELA PLOTKIN (USA), PLOTKIN@NEO.TAMU.EDU
EMMA HARRISON (COSTA RICA & UK), EMMA@CONSERVETURTLES.ORG
JEFFREY SEMINOFF (USA), PAST PRESIDENT JEFFREY.SEMINOFF@NOAA.GOV
ANA BARRAGAN (MEXICO), PAST PRESIDENT ARBR@PRODIGY.NET.MX
RESOLUTION URGING THE REPUBLIC OF MEXICO TO END HIGH BYCATCH MORTALITY AND STRANDINGS OF NORTH PACIFIC LOGGERHEAD SEA TURTLES IN BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO
Recalling that the Republic of Mexico has worked on the conservation of sea turtles dating back to the 1960s when the government set up sea turtle camps to protect and monitor nesting beaches; and
Remembering that in the 1970s and 1980s Mexico created 17 sea turtle reserves, in 1990 decreed a total ban on capture and use of sea turtles and their eggs, and in 1992 joined CITES to comply with the international ban on trade; and
Further remembering that in 2000 Mexico joined the Inter- American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles; and in 2006 elevated the trade ban into law prohibiting the use of turtles for subsistence purposes; and in 2013 established rules to protect sea turtle nesting habitats; and
Acknowledging that there are nine loggerhead populations in the world, all of which are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and
Recognizing that the government of Mexico lists the loggerhead as “in danger of extinction”; and
Acknowledging that the government of the United States officially classifies the North Pacific Ocean loggerhead as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act; and
Knowing that North Pacific loggerhead nesting populations declined by 80 percent in the two decades of the 1990s and 2000s and are at a high risk of extinction; and
Understanding that during their life cycle North Pacific loggerheads travel some 7,500 miles each way while migrating from their nesting grounds in Japan to the western coasts of Mexico and the U.S. and then back again to nest; and
Remembering that the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles is one of several legally binding international and regional accords to which the United States and Mexico are each a Party that require measures to reduce bycatch, protect habitat, and avoid direct capture of loggerheads and other sea turtles; and
Aware that the Gulf of Ulloa in Baja California Sur, Mexico, has been identified as a key juvenile foraging area for North Pacific loggerheads due to persistent oceanographic features that aggregate pelagic red crabs among other prey; and
Concerned that North Pacific loggerheads die in the thousands every year as the result of incidental capture by fishing nets and hooks in the Gulf of Ulloa; and
Troubled that each year the Mexican gillnet and longline fisheries for halibut, shark and other finfish that operates off the southern Baja California peninsula captures and kills as bycatch thousands of endangered loggerheads; and
Alarmed that along a 40-kilometer index beach in a single two- month period in 2013, which corresponded with the height of the fishing season, 705 loggerhead turtles were found dead along the shores of the Gulf of Ulloa a number which represents only a fraction of the total dead during the year in just this area; and
Troubled that while the 2013 mortality level was unprecedented, loggerhead stranding rates and overall levels at the Gulf of Ulloa have fluctuated at extremely high and unsustainable rates since at least 1996; and
Recalling that beginning in the 1990s, scientists and other concerned citizens began to collaborate with local fishermen and the Mexican government to address the bycatch issue, to explore viable fisheries options and to share the results; and
Recognizing that the collaboration – with the support of the local fishing communities - resulted in proposed fishing gear modifications and area limits for fishing boats that would protect sea turtles and maintain fishing; and
Remembering that a broad and successful outreach campaign was conducted to educate the public through festivals and murals; it also promoted tourism and established international exchanges between fishers and other concerned citizens in Baja California Sur, Hawaii, and Japan; and
Further recalling that due to the concern for the gravity of the loggerhead bycatch the Mexican Congress requested that the Environment Ministry and Fishery Commission of the government implement a refuge area, a fisheries management plan and more fishery surveillance in the Gulf of Ulloa; and
Recognizing that INAPESCA published a study in October 2012 that acknowledged that "the available information on the incidental capture of sea turtles in the region known as the Gulf of Ulloa in the peninsula of Baja California Sur indicates that immediate action is necessary in the modification of fishing gear used by the artisanal fleet to avoid bycatch without affecting fisheries production"; and
Remembering that the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) sent a letter in March 2013 to Mexican President Enrique PenÌÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂa Nieto (EPN) to warn him that the incidental mortality and bycatch rate for loggerhead sea turtles along the coast of the northwestern state of Baja California Sur is among the highest documented worldwide (WALLACE); and
Aware that in January 2013, the United States Department of Commerce “identified” Mexico for its failure to address the problem of loggerhead bycatch in the Gulf of Ulloa under the Protected Living Marine Resources statute of the Magnuson- Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act, that requires the United States to formally investigate, certify and sanction nations that fail to adopt bycatch measures comparable to U.S. protections; and
Understanding that the governments of the United States and Mexico are evaluating the loggerhead mortality problem and the United States must make a determination on whether to certify the fishery by January 2015; and
Additionally aware that in April 2013 U.S. conservation groups formally requested U.S. to apply trade sanctions against Mexico to stop the country’s massive loggerhead sea turtle bycatch; and
Recalling that thirteen U.S. Congress members sent a letter in December 2013 to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requesting an update on the actions of the Mexican government regarding the protection of loggerheads from incidental capture in the Gulf of Ulloa fishery; and
Disturbed that the recent report from ProcuraduriÌÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂa Federal Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) contradicts consensus of the broader scientific community and findings over the past two decades that fishing gear poses a significant threat to loggerheads in the waters around Baja California;
The International Sea Turtle Society, attending the 34th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans, Louisiana USA from April 10 to 17, 2014, requests that the:
1. Fisheries authorities of the Government of Mexico act immediately to end the high rates of bycatch mortality and strandings of endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in gillnet and longline fisheries in the Gulf of Ulloa in Baja California Sur.
2. Fisheries authorities of the Government of Mexico enforce and strengthen current fishing regulations in the Gulf of Ulloa, implement a sustainable fishery management plan, and also offer transitional support and capacity building to ensure fisher livelihoods are maintained.
3. Governments of Mexico and the United States protect the North Pacific loggerhead population from further decline and possible extinction by implementing and enforcing existing and additional sea turtle bycatch prevention regulations in both nation's waters and supporting similar actions in international waters and on the High Seas.
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