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article imageUS govt. misses legal deadline to protect loggerhead sea turtles

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 21, 2011 in Environment
Washington - The US government has failed to issue a final ruling that would grant additional protections for the loggerhead sea turtle, a ruling required by a court-ordered settlement between conservation groups and the government over prior delays.
The legal ruling was required after a March 16, 2010 proposal by the government to list loggerheads as endangered, the response resulting from a court-ordered settlement over previous delays. It had been given one year to issue its final ruling.
“While the government dragged its feet, loggerhead sea turtles have drowned in fishing gear and oil from the BP spill. Meanwhile, larger threats from global warming and sea-level rise are mounting,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). “Endangered Species Act protections are needed to promote the recovery of loggerheads and protect nesting beaches from rising seas. Delaying these additional protections only puts these rare turtles at increased risk of extinction,” she added in a CBD press release.
In the North Pacific, loggerhead sea turtle populations have declined by at least 80 percent and they face the chance of becoming functionally or ecologically extinct if additional protections are not granted.
Florida’s beaches, home to the largest population of nesting loggerheads in the northwest Atlantic, have seen a decrease of more than 25 percent in nesting since 1998.
“It is disgraceful that after more than three years and in the face of overwhelming evidence the government has yet to address this critical issue,” said Eric Blisky, Oceana’s senior litigator, according to the CBD news release.
Legal petitions were filed in 2007 by Oceana, CBD and the Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) urged the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to change the status of North Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerheads from “threatened” to “endangered” under Endangered Species Act classification, a move that would provide more protection for the turtles.
Dr. Chris Pincetich, marine biologist at the TIRN’s Sea Turtle Restoration Project, said: “Every day of delay is another loggerhead drowned or injured in deadly fisheries,” CBD reports.
Human activities such as commercial fishing and habitat degradation are increasing pressures on the loggerheads, driving them toward extinction. Global warming conditions threaten to accelerate that race toward extinction.
In addition to the demand for government protection of the sea turtles and their habitat under existing law, the groups are also calling for detailed legislation protecting US sea turtles on land and in ocean waters.
More about loggerhead sea turtles, sea turtle restoration project, Center for biological diversity, oceana, northwest atlantic
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