Loggerhead Sea Turtles Win Room to Roam, Habitat Protection
685 Miles of Nesting Beach and More Than 300,000 Square Miles of
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— After more than five years of delay, threatened loggerhead sea turtles today won federal protection of critical habitat — 685 miles of beaches from Mississippi to North Carolina and more than 300,000 square miles of ocean — on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Following a 2013 lawsuit by conservation groups, the federal government designated important nesting beaches and ocean waters off several states as protected areas essential for loggerhead recovery in the largest designation of “critical habitat” ever.
Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings leave nesting beaches and spend up to 12 years in the open ocean, before returning to coastal areas where they stay until they reach maturity around 35 years of age and seek out beaches to nest. Because of their long migrations and dependence on these natal beaches, critical habitat designation that includes beaches as well as coastal and ocean waters promises to conserve areas necessary for recovery.
The nesting beach habitat — identified in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule for terrestrial habitat — encompasses 84 percent of all known nesting areas. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s ocean habitat rule includes protections for five types of habitat: nearshore reproductive; breeding; migratory corridors; winter habitat; andSargassum habitat. Sargassum is a type of seaweed that provides food, cover, and warm water for optimal growth of young loggerheads.
Learn about saving loggerhead sea turtles.
Contact: Jaclyn Lopez
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Banner photo © Paul S. Hamilton; loggerhead photo courtesy Wikimedia/Radiofan
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