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Help protect sea turtles from drowning in nets

Supporters Spoke up in this Action
Delivery to National Marine Fisheries Service

Action Ended On

May 20, 2021

What Happens Next

Thank you to all who took action! We're grateful for your support.

What was at Stake

There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, but a Trump administration rule implemented in 2019 made changes without public input that will lead to thousands of preventable sea turtle deaths each year. The National Marine Fisheries Service allowed the public to weigh in on this issue during a comment period that concluded on May 20, 2021.

Along the Gulf of Mexico and the southeast Atlantic, sea turtles are unintentionally getting caught in shrimp trawl nets and drowning.

Turtle excluder devices are a proven way to save sea turtles. The devices have been required -- and successfully used -- on fishing vessels for decades to help sea turtles escape when caught in shrimp trawl nets. However, in 2019 the Fisheries Service backtracked and issued a new rule exempting a significant number of trawlers in the Gulf and South Atlantic from having to use these turtle saving devices.

The Fisheries Service provided no rational basis for its exemption. All sea turtles found in U.S. waters are protected by the Endangered Species Act and this rule violates federal law. The agency ignored scientific evidence, did not allow the public to meaningfully participate in the rulemaking process, and did not conduct an adequate environmental analysis.

Earthjustice is in court with a lawsuit aiming to force regulators to protect these endangered turtles. 19,661 Earthjustice supporters – like you – sent in a comment to the Fisheries Service demanding the agency require all shrimp trawlers use life-saving turtle excluder devices in their nets.

Sea turtles thrived in our oceans for over 100 million years but in a matter of decades, human activities have sent them into severe decline. We must do all we can to restore and safeguard our world’s oceans.

Photo of a sea turtle swimming in the Florida Keys.
Getty Images

A sea turtle swims in the Florida Keys. While the species is protected under the Endangered Species Act, it remains at risk of extinction due to harmful fishing practices.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.