USA: Sea Turtle Bill Would Protect International Habitat

9th Sep 2002 Story:

Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont introduced a bill this week aimed at helping preserve the nesting habitats of marine turtles in foreign countries.

"This legislation will help to preserve this ancient and distinctive part of the world's biological diversity," the Vermont senator said in submitting the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2002 (S 2897).

The bill was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Jeffords, who left the Republican Party last year to become the only Independent in the Senate, chairs that committee.

"Marine turtles were once abundant, but now they are in serious trouble," Jeffords noted. "Six of the seven recognized species are listed as threatened on endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and all seven species have been included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, CITES."

The Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2002, Jeffords told fellow senators, "will assist in the recovery and protection of marine turtles by supporting and providing financial resources for projects to conserve nesting habitats of marine turtles in foreign countries and marine turtles while they are found in such habitats."

The bill would seek to prevent "illegal trade in marine turtle parts and projects, and to address other threats to the survival of marine turtles."

The proposed bill would authorize $5 million annually to fund projects to conserve marine turtles and their habitats.

"Because marine turtles are long lived, late maturing, and highly migratory, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of human exploitation and habitat loss," Jeffords noted. "In addition, for some species, illegal trade seriously threatens wild populations."

Jeffords compared his legislation with similar laws passed by Congress to help preserve endangered animals and plants throughout the world, such as the Asian Elephant Conservation Act. Under those laws, he noted, "More than 300 projects have been funded and generated millions of dollars in private matching funds from sponsors representing a diverse group of conservation organizations."

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