Turtle Center Wants Gill Net Rules Enforced

A sea turtle rescue center wants North Carolina to stop authorizing gill net fishing that it says is in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center on Topsail Island filed suit in federal court against the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries, claiming the agency has issued permits that "have resulted in the illegal take of estimated thousands of protected sea turtles".

Michelle Nowlin, supervising attorney for the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, which represents the Beasley Center, said they're asking the state to enforce existing laws. "Our client is asking North Carolina to enforce the law to aid the recovery of these threatened species," Nowlin said. "We value the rich history of commercial fishermen and fishing communities in our state. However, gill nets are a destructive gear and the prevailing method of use injures and kills sea turtles and threatens their existence."

Nowlin says almost every state along the Atlantic that has significant sea turtle populations has banned or severely restricted gill nets. She says despite all efforts, sea turtle populations continue to decline.

Marine Fisheries says the agency is preparing a legal response to the federal lawsuit, but has no comment on it being filed.

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