Sea Turtles' Net Gain

Sea turtles have been around since the dinosaurs, yet many marine biologists say these magnificent migrating creatures are slowly going the way of the dinosaurs.

Fishermens' nets and ocean pollution are taking a toll on the long-distance paddlers, along with a human appetite for sea turtle eggs – prized in countries like Mexico. But there's been good news this summer. Sea turtles appear to be reclaiming some of their species' beachhead.

The two-foot-long and rare Kemp's Ridley turtle, hunted almost to extinction for its leather and its eggs, appears to be enjoying the benefits of a decades-long protection agreement between the US and Mexico.

This year, a record 37 Kemp's Ridley nests have been found so far, and as far north as Galveston, Texas, also unheard of, as part of the agreement's turtle transplant program. That's more than twice the previous Texas record, set in 1999.

In Mexico, over 6,200 nests were found, up from just a couple of hundred in 1985. For its part, Mexico was able to persuade a higher percentage of its shrimp fishermen to comply with international rules for protecting sea turtles, requiring use of a "turtle excluder device" in their nets.

The good news is tempered by the fact that each of six species of sea turtles, including the giant loggerhead, found in United States waters remain threatened or endangered, according to the Ocean Conservancy, which is calling for stricter enforcement of the Clean Water Act to curb polluted runoff.

Nine Western Hemisphere countries meet Monday in Costa Rica to develop a first-ever treaty for the protection and conservation of sea turtles. The treaty is expected to be ratified.

It would be a symbol of a vital long-term commitment to sea-turtle conservation, and recognizes the need for regional cooperation to preserve their vital role in marine and coastal ecosystems.

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