Loggerhead sea turtle listing revised

21 Sep 2011
Loggerhead turtle. Credit: NOAA

Loggerhead turtle. Credit: NOAA

NOAA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have issued a final rule changing the listing of loggerhead sea turtles under the Endangered Species Act.

They have been changed from a single threatened species to nine distinct population segments listed as either threatened or endangered.

Scientists believe this will help focus their sea turtle conservation efforts to the specific needs of the distinct populations. NOAA and FWS share jurisdiction for loggerhead sea turtles listed under the ESA.

“This division of loggerhead sea turtles into nine distinct population segments will help us focus more on the individual threats turtles face in different areas,” said Jim Lecky, NOAA Fisheries director of protected resources. “Wide-ranging species, such as the loggerhead, benefit from assessing and addressing threats on a regional scale.”

On 16 March 2010, the agencies proposed to list seven distinct population segments, also known as DPSs, as endangered and two as threatened. In this final rule, five were listed as endangered and four as threatened.

Two of the final statuses, for the Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean and Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPSs, were changed from endangered in the proposal to threatened. Scientists determined that the Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean DPS is threatened because the majority of nesting occurs on protected lands and nesting trends appear to be stable. In addition, some of the fisheries bycatch effects appear to have been resolved through requirement of turtle excluder devices in shrimp trawlers, and longline fishery effort has declined due to fish stock decreases and economic reasons.

Scientists found that the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS is threatened based on review of nesting data available after the proposed rule was published, information provided in public comments to the proposed rule, and further analysis within the agencies. Even so, substantial conservation efforts are underway to address the threats to these DPSs.

Retaining their proposed status, five DPSs were listed as endangered - Northeast Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, North Indian Ocean, North Pacific Ocean and South Pacific Ocean - and two others were listed as threatened - South Atlantic Ocean and Southwest Indian Ocean.

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