The National Wildlife Federation published a report on the turtles in May. It’s an extensive review of research conducted as well as the results of a major new analysis published recently. The study shows that this invasive species is doing tremendous harm to the marine environment, and that it is in danger of gaining widespread acceptance around the U.S.
“The turtles are a terrible problem, and we know that,” said Michael Smith, president of the National Wildlife Federation. The federation is also calling for urgent action.
Smith said that although this research isn’t the first time the federal government has been studying the turtles in the ocean, it’s the most comprehensive review of its findings. “In my experience, no matter how comprehensive it is, this is still really a relatively small group of people who are actually doing the research and conducting the study,” Smith said.
There is no way to stop this turtle invasion
The research shows that the invasion of turtles is underway. In 2013, it reported that the sea turtle was the most widely distributed vertebrate in the open ocean. The federal government is aware of the threat, but what is actually being done about it? This research shows that only about 10 percent of the $1.5 billion spent on turtle protection around the country has come from the private sector toward conservation.
“Turtles are not a priority in fisheries, so we’ve made it very difficult for them to be a priority in marine conservation,” said Richard B. Morris, vice president for conservation science at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He pointed to the fact that the only U.S. federal marine turtle-control program is administered through NOAA – not the USGS.
The only funding source that the sea turtle conservation community has for conservation efforts are the commercial fishermen’s associations. They have very few resources to devote to the sea turtle population because the species is so small that they don’t pay to capture it, but the commercial fishing industry is largely responsible for it.
“Because the turtles are so small and vulnerable and you’re relying on them for livelihood, it doesn’t make a ton of sense,” Morris said.
There are signs that the industry is paying attention to this problem. “Some industry groups like fishermen and others have been getting involved with fisheries science in a major way,” Morris said.