During my turtle trip to Bald Head Island, NC in June, the loggerhead nesting numbers were looking dismal, but it was fairly early in the season, so the folks at the Island Conservancy were hoping things would turn around. It turns out Bald Head had its worst nesting year on record since 1983.
This year's loggerhead nesting numbers are in, and yesterday Oceana announced that this year was one of the worst on record from North Carolina to Florida. In Florida, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of loggerhead nesting in the United States, nesting decreased by more than 15 percent in 2009.
Florida’s loggerhead nesting population has decreased by more than 40 percent in the last decade and 2009 marked Florida’s fourth lowest nesting season on record.
The loggerhead outlook may be a bit grim this year, but the good news is that ocean foraging and nesting beach conditions for Kemp’s ridleys in Texas and leatherbacks in Florida appeared to improve as 2009 brought the highest nesting year on record for both species.
The bottom line is that loggerheads clearly need stronger protections. Oceana, The Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network have petitioned the federal government to designate the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead as a distinct population segment and to uplist their status from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The petition calls for increased protections in the loggerheads’ key nesting beaches and marine habitats.
The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have agreed to respond to the groups’ petition for increased protections by February 19, 2010.