Protection in the U.S.
Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released their proposed marine protected areas for loggerhead sea turtles in response to a lawsuit filed by three conservation groups last year.
The good news: the proposal includes protections for the Atlantic population in 36 areas of habitat across six states on the East Coast. The bad news: those states are only located in the south and loggerheads are known to swim as far north as Massachusetts.
In other news, a study from the U.S. Geological Survey challenges the view that loggerheads stay near one beach during the nesting season. Researchers previously believed that once loggerheads had nested on a beach, they either stayed in the immediate vicinity or migrated back out to sea. With the help of satellite tags, the researchers found that females visited different beaches, some hundreds of miles apart. Evidence from the study suggests that the turtles require even more protection than previously thought.
According to the data, “it is not sufficient to just protect habitat around high density nesting beaches,” explains co-author and USGS biologist Meg Lamont, “because many turtles that nest on the Peninsula use the entire region from the eastern Florida Panhandle to Louisiana.”
Strandings in Australia
In Australia, wildlife rangers, scientists, veterinarians, volunteers and government agencies gathered at a three-day conference to discuss the recent sharp increase in the number of sea turtle strandings on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Guardian reports that in 2010, 808 sea turtles were found stranded. In 2011, 1,781 were found and there were 1,510 in 2012. As of June 30 this year there have been 342 strandings, representing a slight decrease.
Possible causes range from boat strikes to chemical runoff and even a loss of seagrass from cyclone Yasi in 2011. Experts note that more research is required to determine the cause of strandings and the full range of threats that sea turtles face in the Great Barrier Reef.
To learn more:
- Read the statement from Oceana: Proposal Will Protect Loggerhead Sea Turtle Habitat in Coastal Waters Off Six States
- Read a summary of the USGS study: Nesting Gulf Loggerheads Face Offshore Risks
- Read about the conference in Townsville: Sea turtle conference addresses Great Barrier Reef sickness spike
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