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“NOAA designates additional critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles off West Coast”

Posted by Jody on January 25, 2012

Here’s some great news for leatherback sea turtles!

This month, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced the designation of two distinct areas, totaling approximately 41,914 square miles, of marine habitat along the United States’ West Coast as additional critical habitat for leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea).  Taking effect on February 16, 2011, this ruling provides federal protection in crucial feeding grounds for the endangered leatherbacks in specified regions of the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Photo by Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center)

According to NOAA’s website, “This designation will not directly affect recreational fishing, boating and other private activities in critical habitat. Critical habitat designations only affect federal projects that have the potential to adversely modify or destroy critical habitat. Critical habitat designations aid the recovery of endangered and threatened species by protecting habitat that the species rely on.”

Leatherbacks are the most migratory and wide ranging of all the sea turtles.  After swimming great distances across the Pacific Ocean, from their Indonesian nesting grounds, these well-known world travelers forage in U.S. coastal waters for their preferred delicacy, jellyfish. Yummy!

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Photo by Scott R. Benson, NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center)

These giants of the sea can grow to lengths of 6 1/2 feet and weigh up to 2,000 pounds.  “The leatherback sea turtle, the largest marine turtle in the world, has been listed as endangered since 1970. Leatherbacks have the largest range of any living reptile and occur throughout the oceans of the world. They feed primarily on jellyfish and lay their eggs on tropical and subtropical beaches. Although very little is known about their lifespan, biologists estimate leatherbacks can live for 45 years or more. (NOAA)

Are you looking for a good read to place on the bedside table? You might consider the 114 page ruling: “Endangered and Threatened Species: Final Rule to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle.”  I was relatively impressed with its “plain English” style. No kidding!

Bon Appetit!

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