In Spotlights

What is the mission of your organization?

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) protects endangered sea turtles in ways that make cultural and economic sense to the communities that share the beaches and waters with these gentle creatures. With offices in California, Texas, and Costa Rica, STRP has been leading the international fight to protect sea turtle populations worldwide by partnering with activists and communities to protect nesting beaches, establish marine conservation areas and reform fishery practices and policies.

What is the history of the organization?

STRP was founded in 1989 by biologist Todd Steiner, under the guidance of David Brower at Earth Island Institute. Steiner founded the project after learning that sea turtles he worked to protect in Central America were being legally slaughtered after they migrated into Mexican waters. STRP is now the largest program of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), a nonprofit organization incorporated in 1997.

STRP’s most recent success was threatening legal action which compelled BP and the U.S. Coast Guard to protect sea turtles from incineration by halting their oil burning operations in the Gulf. Other past successes have included creating policy reform that instituted 200,000 square miles of protected foraging habitat for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle off the U.S. West Coast; preventing the reopening of drift gillnet fishing in the Leatherback Conservation Area off the U.S. West Coast for the 2006 season; compelling Mexico to end its legal harvest of sea turtles and closing a sea turtle slaughterhouse; compelling twenty nations to use turtle-saving gear in their shrimp fishing operations; and catalyzing California to require posting of mercury-in-seafood warning signage in California supermarkets and restaurants.

What is the current top priority for your organization?

Our current priority is drawing more attention to the plight of the rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which nests exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. The Kemp’s has in recent years returned from the brink of extinction, yet now faces the devastating consequences of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on its survival and habitat. We have been fighting for years to strengthen protections for this smallest of sea turtles from shrimp trawling, beach development, pollution and other threats. We are now responding to the oil spill by: (1) learning rescue protocol and participating in on-the-water sea turtle rescue; (2) compelling federal wildlife officials to undertake emergency actions to protect threatened and endangered sea turtles in the Gulf; (3) develop grassroots support and legal action to compel BP and the federal government to protect endangered sea turtles as required through the Endangered Species Act; (4) provide the media with needed footage on endangered and threatened sea turtles affected by the oil spill, as well as other marine wildlife and habitat impacts; (5) intensifying our demands for stronger protections from shrimping operations in Kemp’s habitat; and (6) extending our sea turtle education and awareness raising work with schools and the public from Texas to all states in the Gulf region.

What is one unknown fact about your organization?

STRP takes on campaigns that are difficult to win and we find ourselves facing naysayers in larger environmental organizations. But as the campaigns pick up, we see that our efforts and willingness to take on hard actions catalyzes larger groups to action. We now recognize that acting as a catalyst for the involvement of larger groups is one of our strengths, as are our agility to choose campaigns, and our persistence in seeing them through.