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Lawsuit Launched to Protect Florida and Gulf Sea Turtles

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org) filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Obama administration today seeking to protect critical habitat for imperiled loggerhead sea turtles on Florida’s nesting beaches and marine waters in the Atlantic. Florida beaches, which host the largest nesting population of loggerheads in the United States, saw nearly a 40 percent decline in nesting since 1998, before minor rebounds in recent years. Click here to download the 60-day notice.

The notice also called for designation of habitat for endangered North Pacific loggerheads, which nest in Japan and cross the Pacific to feed along the coasts of Southern California and Mexico. These turtles’ numbers have declined by at least 80 percent over the past decade. Read more about loggerhead protections here. Download the original petition to protect Florida and Gulf loggerheads here.

“Loggerheads on both coasts need robust protections from fisheries, oil spills and climate change to reverse their trajectory toward extinction,” says Teri Shore, Program Director at SeaTurtles.org. “While awaiting the protections they deserve, loggerhead sea turtles continue to die, entangled in nets or hooked on longlines for swordfish and tuna.”

“As seas rise due to climate change, nesting turtles will have nowhere to go unless we protect their beach habitat now from unchecked coastal development,” said Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we’re going to save these amazing turtles, we have to save the places they live.”

Critical habitat protections are an important step toward achieving improved protections for key nesting beaches and migratory and feeding habitat in the ocean. The designation would prohibit federal actions that would destroy or harm sea turtle critical habitat by ensuring that harmful projects are modified to ensure the conservation and recovery of imperiled sea turtles. Endangered species with protected critical habitat are twice as likely to be recovering than those without critical habitat.

On Sept. 22, 2011, loggerhead sea turtle populations were protected as nine separate species under the Endangered Species Act, including endangered North Pacific loggerheads and threatened Northwest Atlantic loggerheads. This triggered the requirement to propose critical habitat protections concurrently with listing.

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Turtle Island Restoration Network (SeaTurtles.org) is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 60,000 members and online activists work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.SeaTurtles.org.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 350,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. www.biologicaldiversity.org.