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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 the Pacific Ocean to longline fishing prompted the 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 loggerheads drowning in gillnets. Following this lawsuit, the agency agreed to prohibit drift-gillnets in Southern California in El Niño years when loggerheads are present.

January 10, 2002 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network filed a petition for an emergency rule to list the northern and Florida Panhandle subpopulations of the loggerhead sea turtle as endangered species throughout their range.

June 2002 – The Center filed a successful lawsuit to stop an experimental longline swordfish fishery that would have killed 87 loggerhead 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 loggerheads 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 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.

July 2007 – The Center blocked a proposal by the Fisheries Service to allow longline fishing for swordfish off the California coast. In the same month, the Center and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed a citizen petition to list the North Pacific loggerhead sea turtle under the Endangered Species Act and to have critical habitat designated along the coasts of Hawaii and California.

November 15, 2007 – The Center and Oceana petitioned to designate the western North Atlantic subpopulations of the loggerhead as a “distinct population segment” and to reclassify the populations as endangered, as well as to increase protections for key nesting habitat.

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 petitions.

April 15, 2009 – The Center, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife and a coalition of other conservation groups sued the Fisheries Service to force action to protect endangered and threatened sea turtles from death and injury in the Gulf of Mexico longline fishery.

April 29, 2009 – The National Marine Fisheries Service ordered a six-month emergency closure of the bottom longline fishery in the Gulf; the closure would allow the agency to determine whether and how the fishery could continue to operate while ensuring the survival of sea turtles over the long term.

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 was then 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 February 2010.

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 previously permitted.

March 10, 2010 – The National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of U.S. North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.

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 loggerhead, 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 7, 2011 – The Center and allies reached a settlement with the government ending our lawsuit challenging the feds’ plans to dramatically increase the number of turtles that could be killed. The agreement capped the number at 17 per year, in contrast to the 46 that had been killed in 2010.

March 2011 – The Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service missed their deadline to upgrade loggerheads’ status from “threatened” to “endangered,” subsequently postponing and reconsidering their March 2010 decision.

May 31, 2011 – After a record 322 dead sea turtles were found on Gulf beaches, the Center and allies filed a notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service if it didn’t protect all endangered turtles in the region, including loggerheads, from entanglement and drowning in shrimp trawls.

July 6, 2011 – In response to a suit by the Center and allies, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the Fisheries Service violated the law when it failed to consider a reasonable range of options to protect loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf and refused to take a fresh look at the Gulf bottom longline fishery’s impact on sea turtles after the massive BP oil spill.  

September 22, 2011 – The National Marine Fisheries Service declared the loggerhead endangered.

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. 

April 16, 2012 – The Center and Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org) filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Obama administration seeking to protect critical habitat for Pacific loggerhead sea turtles along the U.S. West Coast and across the Pacific Ocean.

May 18, 2012 – The National Marine Fisheries Serviceproposed 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.

October 11, 2012 – The Center filed suit against the Obama administration seeking to protect critical habitat for Pacific loggerhead sea turtles.

January 8, 2013 – The Center and allies filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service for the agencies’ failure to protect critical habitat areas for threatened and endangered loggerhead sea turtles on their nesting beaches and in Atlantic and Pacific waters.

March 22, 2013 – After five years of delay, the federal government finally proposed to protect more than 739 miles of critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles on their nesting beaches along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. 

May 2, 2013 –  Endangered loggerhead sea turtles won a federal commitment to protect critical nesting-beach and ocean habitat in a legal settlement filed in U.S. District Court between conservation groups the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network and the U.S. government.

July 17, 2013 – In response to our litigation, the federal government finally proposed to protect 36 areas of ocean habitat across six states for loggerhead sea turtles.

September 11, 2013 – Mexico faced the threat of a trade embargo from the United States for failing to protect endangered North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles from getting entangled in fishing gear off the Baja California’s Gulf of Ulloa. 

July 9, 2014  Following our January 2013 lawsuit and more than five years of delay,the federal goverment protected critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts: 685 miles of beaches from Mississippi to North Carolina and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean — the largest designation of critical habitat ever.

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons/ukanda