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March 11, 2010

Loggerheads Get a Boost

We’re celebrating a big win yesterday for loggerhead sea turtles.

In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, yesterday the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to change the status of North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

The government also proposed listing loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.

The change in listing status means the populations are in danger of extinction and will trigger a legal requirement for proposed critical habitat, an important step in achieving improved protections for key nesting beaches and migratory and feeding habitat in the ocean. 

In 2009 the Fisheries Service published a status review of loggerhead sea turtles worldwide; it identified nine discrete population segments and found both North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerheads “currently at risk of extinction.”

As a result of commercial fishing and habitat degradation, loggerheads have declined by at least 80 percent in the North Pacific and could become functionally or ecologically extinct by the mid-21st century if additional protections are not put into place. Florida beaches, which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the Northwest Atlantic, have seen a decline in nesting of more than 40 percent in the past decade.

Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen!