Sea Turtle Restoration Project
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP), founded in 1989, is a project of
Turtle Island Restoration Network(TIRN), a United States501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental organization.
STRP states its mission as being:
"To protect endangered
sea turtles in ways that make cultural and economic sense to the communities that share the beaches and waters with these gentle creatures." [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=34 STRP Mission] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 28, 2008).]
With a goal of protecting endangered sea turtles from human-caused threats at nesting beaches and in the ocean, STRP engages in several activities such as educating the public about sea turtles, urging people to get involved with sea turtle protection, advocating for laws and regulations that protect sea turtles from accidentally getting caught in commercial fishing operations, filing lawsuits when the U. S. Endangered Species Act or other conservation laws are violated, and disseminating information about sea turtles to elected officials, regulatory agencies, members of the media and the public. STRP currently has offices in the
United States, Central Americaand the Western Pacific.
Todd Steiner, a
herpetologistand then Director of the Save the Dolphin Project, an affiliate organization of the Earth Island Institute, founded STRP in 1989. Just prior to 1989 Steiner had traveled to Nicaraguato assist local communities in protecting their nesting populations of sea turtles. Upon returning to the United StatesSteiner learned that the sea turtles being protected in Nicaraguawere being killed hundreds of miles north in Mexicoto supply shells for the Japanese luxury apparel market.Sea Turtle Restoration Project, “STRP History,” STRP Brochure (2003] : 1]
From this experience Steiner came to believe that it was important to protect sea turtles locally and that international protection was also needed because the sea turtle is a highly migratory species that crosses national boundaries as part of its natural life cycle. In 1989 Steiner launched STRP to work on strengthening sea turtle protection policies at the local and international level.
STRP joined international efforts to end the trade in endangered sea turtles by organizing protests at the Mexican and Japanese consulates in the U. S. and generating thousands of letters and phone calls of protest. Eventually, Mexico banned the killing of sea turtles and closed the slaughterhouses. Japan also ended its illegal trade in endangered sea turtle parts for luxury items such as
tortoise shelleyeglass frames and lighters.
Since 1989, STRP has attempted to address other threats facing sea turtles at nesting beaches and in the ocean where sea turtles spend most of the time. This has included protecting critical nesting habitat in
Central America, seeking to establish a marine reserve for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in Texas, developing community-based projects to protect local sea turtle populations in the Western Pacific, preventing the capture of sea turtles by industrial fishingoperations worldwide, and protecting critical foraging habitat for the near extinct Pacific leatherbacksea turtle off the US West Coast.
In 1999 STRP broke off from its parent organization
Earth Island Instituteand was re-incorporated as the Turtle Island Restoration Network(TIRN). That same year STRP staff members marched with people dressed in sea turtle costumes at the World Trade Organization(WTO) Ministerial meeting in Seattleto protest the conflict of trade rules with protecting endangered species. In September 2008 the movie titled “ Battle in Seattle” was released that dramatizes the events surrounding the 1999 WTO protest.
STRP currently has five programs that focus on protecting
sea turtles and the marine environment. These include the Save the Leatherbackprogram, Gulf of Mexicoprogram, US Pacificsea turtle campaign, Central Americaprogram and Western Pacificprogram. In addition STRP has a public health campaign - Got Mercury?- that addresses the public health issue of mercury in seafood.
ave the Leatherback Program
STRP began the Save the Leatherback Program in 2000 when a scientific article published in
Nature magazinestated that the Pacific leatherbacksea turtle could become extinct within 10-30 years if its adult mortality was not drastically reduced. [Spotila, J. R. et al, “Pacific leatherback turtles face extinction,” Nature 405 (2000): 529-530] Industrialized fishing practices, particularly longliningand drift gillnetting, used to catch swordfish, shark, and tuna, where cited as causing the most adult leatherback mortality. In response, STRP convened the International Leatherback Survival Conference in April 2002. The outcome was a call by leading sea turtle and marine scientists for a moratoriumon Pacific longlining and drift gillnetting. In the next few years STRP organized over 1,000 scientists from 97 countries and 280 NGO’s to sign a petition to the United Nationsseeking a moratoriumon high seasindustrial longline fishing to prevent that extinction. [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=57 Victories] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 28, 2008).] In 2004 the documentary “Last Journey for the Leatherback?” was released, which depicts the plight of the Pacific leatherback sea turtle.
US Pacific sea turtle program
Pacific sea turtlecampaign began in 2001 when STRP’s legal action forced a seasonal closure of the California/ Oregondrift gillnetfishery to protect endangered sea turtlesand other marine species. In 2006 STRP and a coalition of environmental organizations prevented efforts by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council ( PFMC) to reopen the seasonal closure to drift gillnet fishing. STRP is currently working to prevent the development of a pelagic longlinefishery within the California Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) where it has been banned for 30 years to protect various marine species. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=87 West Coast Longline Fishery] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 28, 2008).]
Gulf of Mexico program
In August 2002 STRP merged with the
Texas-based Help Endangered Animals – Ridley Turtles (HEART) organization and opened its Gulf of MexicoOffice. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?id=945 HEART Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 29, 2008).] The focus of this program is protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle through the enforcement of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDS) in shrimpnets and the development of a Kemp's RidleyMarine Reserve that is off limits to commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2008 a record-breaking season occurred with 148 Kemp's Ridley nests found along the Texas coast, which was more than double the figure found in 2005. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=41 Gulf of Mexico Program] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 29, 2008).]
Central America program
Since 1989, STRP has been working directly in
Central Americawith coastal communities in an effort to protect sea turtles. Along with its sister organization PRETOMAwhich is based in Costa Rica, STRP is focused on decreasing the threats to sea turtles in Central Americathat include development of nesting sites, killing of breeding females, illegal poaching of eggs, and the incidental capture of sea turtles by industrial fishingfleets. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=44 Central America Program] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 29, 2008).]
Western Pacific program
Western Pacificprogram began in 2006 and is based on the island of Papua New Guinea. STRP partners with coastal communities to protect and restore the declining leatherbackturtle population and habitat by helping to establish Conservation Deeds in important nesting beaches and marine waters. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=78 Western Pacific Program] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 29, 2008).]
In 2002 STRP began its
Got Mercury?program to educate the public about mercury levels in seafoodand to take action to reduce the public's exposure to methylmercuryin seafood. [ [http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?list=type&type=48 GotMercury.org] . Sea Turtle Restoration Project (July 29, 2008).] Got Mercury? has tested mercury levels in fish found in sushirestaurants and found high levels of mercury in tuna[http://www.gotmercury.org/article.php?list=type&type=75 Sea Turtle Restoration Project: Got Mercury?] . GotMercury.org (July 29, 2008).] Volunteers monitor restaurants and supermarkets to make sure they are in compliance with California's Proposition 65law. Proposition 65 requires the posting of mercury in seafoodconsumer advisory warnings by seafoodpurveyors. [ [http://www.gotmercury.org/article.php?id=1051 Mercury in Seafood: No Fair Warning] . GotMercury.org (July 29, 2008)] Got Mercury? developed a free online mercury in seafoodcalculator that allows individuals to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) calculations to estimate average mercury exposure levels by fish type and amount relative to a person's weight.
* [http://www.seaturtles.org Sea Turtle Restoration Project website]
* [http://www.gotmercury.org Got Mercury? website]
* [http://www.spawnusa.org/ SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) website]
* [http://www.ridleyturtles.org/ HEART website]
* [http://www.tortugamarina.org/ PRETOMA website]
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