Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: Hugh Vickery, DOI
For Immediate Release: July 6, 2004

New Law Gives Boost to International
Marine Turtle Conservation Efforts

(WASHINGTON) -- Protection of the international sea turtle through partnerships got a significant boost Friday when President Bush signed the Marine Turtle Conservation Act into law.

Under the new law, sea turtles will be added to the list of species eligible for funding under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund. That fund supports on-the-ground protection, research, and education efforts. It provides a funding source for comprehensive, global coordination and collaboration for individual efforts in developing countries where resources and capacity are limited.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service share jurisdiction for the conservation of marine turtles. The Service focuses conservation activities on nesting beaches while NOAA works to conserve and recover turtles in their marine habitats.

"This law will assist us in addressing some of the most pressing sea turtle conservation issues," Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton said. "As a direct result of funds made available by similar acts for elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, great apes and neotropical migratory birds, overseas wildlife researchers and managers are more effectively protecting their countries' wildlife and habitat resources. Both at home and abroad, our experience has shown that relatively modest sums for well-designed and implemented projects enhance partnerships, leverage considerable resources, and benefit communities."

"Today, President Bush has elevated the importance of stronger sea turtle protection on a global scale and signaled that the United States is ready to help other countries promote recovery efforts," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D., Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. "Turtles depend on the oceans and nesting beaches of many nations to survive. This Act will reduce poaching, improve management and monitoring, and support local conservation efforts in areas of the world where needs are greatest."

When funds are available, implementation of the Marine Turtle Conservation Act will be modeled on previous Multinational Species Conservation Act initiatives.

Each project funded under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund is a cooperative effort with foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, or the private sector. No in-country project is approved unless it has the full support of in-country government officials, and has been identified as a project that will address the country's conservation priorities. Advisory committees assist the Service in reviewing projects. The $25 million in federal funds provided to date have been matched by over $80 million in contributions from approximately 500 partner organizations.

Less than 60 years ago, marine turtles were abundant, and widespread nesting on beaches was common. Today, however, six of the seven marine turtle species-the Kemp's ridley, the Olive ridley, the Loggerhead, the Leatherback, the Hawksbill, and the Green turtle-are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). All seven are also listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Overall, nesting populations for most species have declined worldwide with a few exceptions. Threats facing marine turtles include egg harvesting, poaching, trade in turtle parts and loss of habitat. In many cultures, people still harvest marine turtles and their eggs for food. Most countries have outlawed the killing of turtles and the taking of eggs, but resources for enforcement are inadequate.



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