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Officials Propose New Safety Measures for Loggerhead Turtles

Mar 22, 2013 02:39 PM EDT
Loggerhead turtle
A healthy Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling is held after a hatching inventory on Litchfield Beach along the coast of South Carolina August 17, 2012.
(Photo : REUTERS/Randall Hill)

Loggerhead turtles may get an extra boost of protection now that officials are proposing naming many of the beaches where the turtles nest as a critical habitat.

Should it go into effect, the designation would require federal review for beach renourishment projects, inlet dredging and other related activities in which the federal government is involved. It does not, however, affect land ownership and is not equivalent to creating a conservation area.

In all, the proposal suggests including 740 miles of beach shoreline in a total of six different states, including Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. This would in turn account for an estimated 84 percent of the loggerheads' nesting area, according to a report in

A press release issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service emphasizes the change in habitat designation would not affect the human populations who live near or visit the areas.

According to NOAA, artificial lighting along beach shores are considered one reason turtles are struggling to survive, since it may deter female turtles from coming onto shore to nest and lures the hatchlings landward rather than out towards sea.

Incidental and directed capture, as well, are also some of the main threats loggerheads and other turtles face.

Earlier this year, several conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, filed suit against the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for, as it states in a press release, "failure to protect critical habitat areas for threatened and endangered loggerhead sea turtles on their nesting beaches and in the Atlantic and Pacific waters, where they face threats from fisheries, climate change and coastal development."

Ultimately, as the press release states, history shows that when an endangered species' habitat is placed on the critical list, they are twice as likely to show signs of recovery.

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