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Action timeline

1999 – A court decision shut down the Hawaii-based longline fishery for swordfish. This decision to close millions of miles of Pacific Ocean to longline fishing prompted the fishery’s fleet of three dozen vessels to relocate to Southern California.

2000 – The Center and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed a lawsuit to keep the National Marine Fisheries Service from authorizing a California drift-gillnet fishery until it met requirements to reduce the number of leatherbacks drowning in gillnets. Following this lawsuit, the agency agreed to prohibit drift-gillnets in central and Northern California in El Niño years when leatherbacks are present.

June 2002 – The Center filed a successful lawsuit to stop an experimental longline swordfish fishery that would have been allowed to kill leatherback sea turtles in the same area where the fishing practice was previously banned in Hawaii.

December 2002 – The Center filed a lawsuit against the Fisheries Service for its failure to close portions of the California drift-gillnet fishery during an El Niño year, when warmer water temperatures brought leatherbacks into contact with the fishery.

2004 – Following a successful lawsuit by the Center and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, longline fishing for swordfish was prohibited along the West Coast.

2006 – The Center fought off a proposal to reopen important leatherback foraging areas off the California coast to drift-gillnet fishing.

June 2007 – When pressed by the Center, the Fisheries Service denied a permit that would have allowed drift-gillnet vessels to operate in a protected area off the California and Oregon coasts. In the same month, the Center blocked a proposal by the Fisheries Service to allow longline fishing for swordfish off the California coast in leatherback habitat.

September 2007 – The Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana filed a citizen petition seeking to have critical habitat designated for the leatherback along the coasts of California and Oregon.

March 12, 2009 – The Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Oceana filed a notice of intent to sue to force a response to our 2007 petition.

June 19, 2009 – The National Marine Fisheries Service made a proposal that would allow Hawaii’s bottom longline swordfish fishery to injure and kill nearly three times as many imperiled sea turtles as had previously been permitted.

October 8, 2009 – The Center, Oceana and the Turtle Island Restoration Network reached an agreement with the Fisheries Service establishing a deadline for the agency to respond to our 2007 petition in December.

December 16, 2009 – The Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network and KAHEA, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit challenging a Fisheries Service rule that allows Hawaii’s longline fishery to catch nearly three times as many loggerheads as was previously permitted — and continues to result in the likely capture of 16 leatherbacks each year.

January 5, 2010 – In response to our critical habitat petition and lawsuit, the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration proposed to designate more than 70,000 square miles of protected habitat for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles in the waters off California, Oregon and Washington. 

July 14, 2010 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Stanford Law Clinic, petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to extend the seasonal closure of the gulf shrimp fishery for the sake of imperiled sea turtles, including the leatherback, pending an analysis of the fishery’s environmental impact.

August 17, 2010 – The Fisheries Service announced it would examine whether shrimp trawling in the southeast United States, including the Gulf of Mexico, was jeopardizing threatened and endangered sea turtle populations. 

February 4, 2011 – The Center, Oceana and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government for failing to meet the Endangered Species Act deadline for finalizing the leatherback’s critical habitat. 

April 19, 2011 – Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the federal government for missing its deadline to protect critical habitat in ocean waters where critically endangered leatherback sea turtles feed on jellyfish along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

July 5, 2011 – A settlement filed in federal court between the Center and allies and the National Marine Fisheries Service required the government to make a final rule protecting critical habitat for the endangered leatherback sea turtle by Nov. 15, 2011. As proposed, the rule would protect sea turtles in part of the area off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

October 13, 2011 – Conservation groups asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to hold the National Marine Fisheries Service accountable for its role in the shrimp trawl-related deaths of endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. 

January 20, 2012 – The Fisheries Service finalized protection of 40,000 square miles of protected critical ocean habitat off the shores of Washington, Oregon and California today for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle.

March 3, 2012 – The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to pursue the expansion of California’s devastating drift gillnet fishery for swordfish and sharks into an area currently off-limits to that fishing to protect critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles.

May 18, 2012 – The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed new protections for sea turtles that would require escape hatches in shrimp nets used by boats that operate in the shallow, inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and southeast Atlantic Ocean.

November 2, 2012 – The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network, represented by Earthjustice, filed suit challenging a new rule by the National Marine Fisheries Service that doubled the number of endangered loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles allowed to be entangled and killed by Hawaii’s longline swordfish fishery.

Photo courtesy of Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary