Since 1978, the loggerhead sea turtle has been listed as threatened throughout its range under the Endangered Species Act. Under this act, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) share jurisdiction for the loggerhead sea turtle.
According to NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources “Loggerheads are circumglobal, occurring throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Loggerheads are the most abundant species of sea turtle found in U.S. coastal waters.”
Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Photo by Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons)
“In the Atlantic, the loggerhead turtle’s range extends from Newfoundland to as far south as Argentina. During the summer, nesting occurs primarily in the subtropics. Although the major nesting concentrations in the U.S. are found from North Carolina through southwest Florida, minimal nesting occurs outside of this range westward to Texas and northward to southern Virginia. Adult loggerheads are known to make extensive migrations between foraging areas and nesting beaches. During non-nesting years, adult females from U.S. beaches are distributed in waters off the eastern U.S. and throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and Yucatán.”
Loggerhead Hatchling (NPS Photo/Wikimedia Commons)
“The majority of loggerhead nesting occurs in the western rims of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The loggerhead nesting aggregations in Oman, the U.S., and Australia account for about 88% of nesting worldwide. In the southeastern U.S., about 80% of loggerhead nesting occurs in six Florida counties (Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward Counties). In Brevard and Indian River Counties, a 20 mile (32.2 km) section of coastline from Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach comprises the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR). ACNWR is the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. Twenty-five percent of all loggerhead nesting in the U.S. occurs in the Refuge. Researchers have recorded nesting densities of 1,000 nests per mile (625 nests per km) within the ACNWR.”
“In the eastern Pacific, loggerheads have been reported as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Chile. In the U.S., occasional sightings are reported from the coasts of Washington and Oregon, but most records are of juveniles off the coast of California. The west coast of Mexico, including the Baja Peninsula, provides critically important developmental habitats for juvenile loggerheads. The only known nesting areas for loggerheads in the North Pacific are found in southern Japan.”
With such a wide ranging population, it’s no wonder that federal agencies have recently ruled it necessary to change the designation of loggerhead sea turtles from one threatened species to nine “distinct population segments.” Worldwide, four distinct population segments remain listed as “threatened” and five segments are now classified as “endangered.” By all accounts, this new division should help to better assess threats, monitor loggerhead sea turtle populations and focus conservation efforts on the basis of need and region.
Lots of up-to-date information is available on NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Loggerhead Turtle web page. Don’t forget to check out the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s East Coast.
Have a great day at the beach!
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