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U.S. to list loggerhead turtles as endangered

The federal government on Wednesday recommended an endangered-species listing for the loggerhead turtles in U.S.waters
A loggerhead sea turtle in the National Aquarium in Washington DC
Since loggerheads were listed as threatened in 1978 under the Endangered Species Act, they have continued to decline. Wildlife agencies say the primary cause is incidental capture in fishing nets and long lines. But the turtles also have lost beach nesting habitat.
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n the Northwest Atlantic, the turtles have seen a nesting decline of 40 percent in the past decade. In the North Pacific, populations are down about 80 percent, and specialists fear that the turtles are on the brink of extinction. Scientists first petitioned the government in 2007 to change the turtles’ “threatened’’ status to “endangered.’’

"More needed to be done to protect this species," said Andrea Treece, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which along with other environmental groups petitioned the government to change the listing for North Pacific and Northwest Atlantic loggerhead populations.

Endangered status would trigger designation of critical habitat zones for the two populations found in the U.S., prompting protections that could affect future offshore oil drilling and other activities.

But marine agencies concede that U.S. regulations alone will not save loggerheads, which live globally in the temperate and tropical zones of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and Mediterranean Sea.

Loggerhead nests in the U.S. are found along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, from southern Virginia through Alabama. The North Pacific population hatches on the Japanese coast and some juveniles migrate to within a couple of hundred miles of California, where they feed in open waters.

“It is a very big day for loggerhead sea turtles,’’ said marine scientist Elizabeth Griffin of Oceana, an environmental advocacy group based in Washington. “I hope this is a turning point and that people start taking loggerhead sea turtle conservation more seriously.’’

The endangered species measure now goes through a public comment stage and could be in force by summer of 2011.

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