Washington (June 16, 2022) – Today, on World Sea Turtle Day, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the bipartisan Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act, legislation to create a new grant program at the Department of Commerce to fund the rescue and recovery of sea turtles in the United States. All known sea turtle species within U.S. waters are considered threatened or endangered, and the new legislation would provide much-needed financial support for ongoing rescue, rehabilitation, and research efforts for stranded turtles. Current rescue efforts are largely volunteer and underfunded, while sea turtles continue to face increasing environmental and human-caused threats, such as surprise cold snaps, red tide events, and entanglement in marine debris. During the 2021 cold snap in Texas, more than 12,100 turtles were cold-stunned and rescue organizations were able to save and return only 4,000 of the stranded turtles to the wild. In May, Representative Bill Keating (MA-09) introduced the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act in the House of Representatives.
“We have a responsibility to protect the threatened and endangered sea turtles that call our waters home,” said Senator Markey. “As our sea turtles continue to face greater existential threats, this legislation will help to keep our marine diversity alive. This funding will support rescue and recovery efforts, as well as the study of sea turtles so that future generations can know these animals as friends, not fiction.”
“The waters off of the Texas Gulf Coast are home to several species of sea turtles which are crucial to the health of our diverse marine ecosystem,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation will support the rescue and recovery efforts of today while also investing in research to better protect the future of America’s sea turtle population.”
Specifically, the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act would:
The Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act is endorsed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the New England Aquarium, and the National Aquarium.
“As they struggle for survival against a changing climate and so many other human-imposed threats, efforts to rescue, rehabilitate and release endangered sea turtles are more important than ever,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “Our thanks to Senators Markey and Cornyn for their leadership.”
In a joint statement, John Racanelli, President and CEO of the National Aquarium; Vikki N. Spruill, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium; and Kevin Mills, President and CEO of the South Carolina Aquarium, said, “We applaud Senator Ed Markey and Representative William Keating for introducing the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act of 2022 and thank them for their leadership on behalf of all the partners involved in rescuing and rehabilitating sick or injured sea turtles. Organizations like ours directly contribute to sea turtle conservation while educating the public on the threats facing these threatened and endangered species. However, the level of voluntary contribution from stranding network partners is not sustainable. A direct grant program supporting this work is long overdue.”