Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 21, 2014

Contact:  Justin Bloom, SunCoast Waterkeeper, (941) 275-2922
Andy Mele, SunCoast Waterkeeper, (914) 204-0030
Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity,, (727) 490-9190
(photos of sea turtles available on request)

Lawsuit Launched to Prevent Sea Turtle Deaths

SARASOTA, Fla.— Conservation groups launched a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service for their role in allowing the deaths of thousands of imperiled sea turtles and countless other marine animals.   

Every year thousands of sea turtles get sucked into power-plant cooling systems, where they are pinned against the intake screens and either crushed or suffocated. Females of breeding age are the most common victims (making up 85 percent of the entrapments), which not only results in the death of the individual but eliminates those individuals’ potential reproductive contribution to the species.

Power plants at issue along the east coast of Florida include Big Bend, Anclote, Crystal River, Bayside and P.L. Bartow. Their cooling systems’ combined design intake flows total more than 10 billion gallons per day. All five employ once-through cooling, determined to be more deadly than closed-cycle cooling systems.

“Antiquated once-through cooling water intakes on Florida's Gulf Coast are massive killers of our aquatic natural resources,” said Justin Bloom, environmental attorney and executive director of Waterkeeper. “If regulators fully account for the costs associated with these structures, they would mandate commonly used cooling systems that would all but eliminate these deadly water intakes.”

“The Services have long been on notice that this outdated system needlessly kills thousands of animals that are already on the brink of extinction,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director and staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope they will now live up to their names and protect fish and wildlife by ending this senseless slaughter.”

All sea turtle species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.  The Kemp’s ridley and hawksbill turtle are also globally listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered,” while the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtle are listed internationally as “endangered.”

Nationally sea turtle mortality from power plants is estimated to be between 12,600 and 200,000 per year. There are, for example, 164 power plants that are inside the habitat ranges of the leatherback and Kemp’s ridley turtle. These power plants kill or injure between 46 and 949 turtles annually.

Once-through cooling systems are antiquated, inefficient and major killers, even when screened, of marine species of all types at planktonic or larval stages. Billions of fish and crustaceans are also killed by once-through power plants.

The conservation groups seek to compel compliance with the Clean Water Act’s requirement for “Best Available Technology,” in the form of closed-cycle cooling, which uses 90 percent less water and hence greatly reduces flow volumes and velocities. The Act also requires a full accounting and mitigation of marine animal deaths and injury.


The mission of Suncoast Waterkeeper is to protect and restore the Florida Suncoast’s waterways through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy, and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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