Feds Slapped With Suit to Save Sea Turtles

Leatherback sea turtles are becoming a political football as a Marin County activist group sues the feds to save the rare beasts.

Turtle Island Restoration Network, a Marin-based activist group, today sued the federal government for failing to protect leatherback sea turtles. The lawsuit claims the National Fisheries Management Service has turned a blind eye to coastal development, greenhouse gasses and new fishing permits which pose threats to the endangered turtles.

In the vast world of the animal kingdom, the leatherback sea turtle is one of the great travelers. Its 6,000-mile annual trek across the Pacific isn't for the faint of heart. It's a journey filled with nature's perils. But maybe more sinister is the threat from man. Climate change, capture, fishing hooks and nets have ended the trip early for many leatherbacks. But conservationists are pointing the finger at the feds.

The group hopes by filing the suit it can force the government to take action to protect the turtles under the Endangered Species Act. A spokesman for the National Fisheries Management Service said the agency had just received the lawsuit and wasn't prepared to comment.

The leatherback is the world's largest sea turtle. It weighs between 700 and 2,000 pounds and is covered by a soft leathery shell. Among its annual destinations is the Bay Area coastline where it munches on jellyfish. Environmentalists say the endangered turtle's population is dropping at an alarming rate, and could face extinction. The suit also calls on the government to change the designation of the leatherback's cousin, the Loggerhead sea turtle, from "threatened" to the more dire status of "endangered."

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