The Northwest Atlantic subpopulation of leatherback turtles could soon lose important protections under the Endangered Species Act in response to a September 2017 petition filed by the Blue Water Fishermen’s Association. The petition requested that the turtles be downlisted from endangered to threatened. Changing the turtle’s status could ease critical restrictions and efforts to mitigate bycatch impacts.
In December, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced a 90-day finding on the petition, stating that the petitioned action may be warranted. Such a finding triggers a status review, and the agency solicited scientific and commercial information pertaining to this leatherback subpopulation. AWI submitted comments, attaching scientific evidence showing that the turtles are still highly endangered, and that the Northwest Atlantic subpopulation in particular faces severe threats from bycatch, habitat loss, and myriad impacts associated with climate change.