SAN FRANCISCO— Conservation groups launched a lawsuit today against the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service by filing a formal notice of intent to sue the agencies to protect critical habitat areas for endangered loggerhead sea turtles on Florida’s nesting beaches, as well as in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Florida beaches, which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the United States, saw nearly a 40 percent decline in nesting since 1998 before minor rebounds in recent years. North Pacific loggerheads, which nest in Japan and cross the Pacific to feed along the coasts of Southern California and Mexico, have declined by at least 80 percent over the past decade.
“With the seas rising and development transforming our coasts and oceans, sea turtles don’t have many safe havens left to nest and feed,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “To save these amazing turtles, we have to identify and protect the places they live.”
“The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for species like loggerhead sea turtles that are on a path toward extinction,” said Beth Lowell, campaign director at Oceana. “By protecting the regions vital to their well-being, we can help rebuild plummeting sea turtle populations. The government is failing loggerhead sea turtles by delaying the designation of critical habitat.”
“Loggerheads on both coasts need robust protections from fisheries, oil spills and climate change to reverse their trajectory toward extinction,” said Teri Shore, program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network. “While awaiting the protections they deserve, loggerhead sea turtles continue to die, entangled in nets or hooked on longlines for swordfish and tuna.”
Critical habitat protection would help safeguard key nesting beaches as well as migratory and feeding areas in the oceans. The designation would also prohibit federal projects that would potentially destroy or harm these areas to ensure the conservation and recovery of imperiled sea turtles. Endangered species that benefit from protected critical habitat are twice as likely to show signs of recovery than those without it.
On Sept. 22, 2011, loggerhead sea turtles were protected as nine separate populations under the Endangered Species Act, including endangered North Pacific loggerheads and threatened Northwest Atlantic loggerheads. This triggered a requirement to designate critical habitat areas concurrently with the listing. Habitat has not yet been protected; today’s notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service targets that failure.
Click here for more information about loggerhead populations and to download the petitions.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 550,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. www.oceana.org
Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org) is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 60,000 members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. www.SeaTurtles.org