By Sammy Fretwell
HARKERS ISLAND, N.C. — Two North Carolina commercial fishing groups are seeking to end endangered-species protections for sea turtles, a move that could loosen regulations that the groups say are unnecessary.
In a notice this week to federal agencies, the N.C. Fisheries Association and a local group said sea turtles “are at or near recovery and strict regulation is unwarranted.’’ The notice gives the federal government 60 days to conduct an assessment of how many turtles inhabit the ocean – or the groups will take further legal action.
An attorney for the groups said the action applies to a variety of sea turtles that now enjoy federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, including the loggerhead sea turtle that can be found off the South and North Carolina coasts.
The fisheries association said commercial anglers have been unfairly targeted by federal agencies to help protect sea turtles. The group says recreational fisherman and boaters have not been asked to share the responsibility.
In the Carolinas, loggerhead sea turtles have received federal protection in an attempt to help the species recover. Some measures, such as turtle excluder devices now required in shrimp nets, have helped the species in the past two decades. Last summer, sea turtle nesting surveys showed a strong rebound by the reptiles in South Carolina, although previous years had not reflected the same strong numbers.