Draft recovery plan for Loggerhead sea turtle reflects agency efforts, but not good news for turtle watchers
73 Fed. Reg. 31066 (May 30, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; Fish and Wildlife Service; Endangered and Threatened Species; Recovery Plans; Recovery Plan for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle; Notice of availability; request for comments.)
Photo of loggerhead sea turtle by Marco Guiliano available from NOAA
SUMMARY: We, NMFS and USFWS, announce the availability for public review of the draft Recovery Plan (Plan) for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta). http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/loggerhead.htm We are soliciting review and comment on the Plan from the public and all interested parties, including state and local governments, and national governments beyond the U.S. whose actions may contribute to the conservation and recovery of the loggerhead turtle in the Northwest Atlantic. We will consider all substantive comments received during the review period before submitting the Plan for final approval.
ADDITIONAL INFO: This Plan discusses the natural history, current status, and the known and potential threats to the loggerhead turtle in the Northwest Atlantic. The Plan lays out a recovery strategy to address the potential threats based on the best available science and includes recovery goals and criteria. The Plan is not a regulatory action, but presents guidance for use by agencies and interested parties to assist in the recovery of loggerhead turtles.Interested persons may obtain the Plan for review online here. In addition, the 1993 Atlantic and 1998 Pacific recovery plans are also available.
COMMENTARY: Despite the ongoing regulatory efforts to benefit the species, from routine biological opinions to special rules mandating turtle-sensitive fishing tools like Turtle Excluder Devices, the loggerhead sea turtle nesting data discussions in the recovery plan do not bring good news. For the five populations of loggerhead sea turtles, trends are not favorable. Specifically, for the Northern Recovery Unit (including the Carolinas), the Peninsular Florida Recovery Unit, and the Northern Gulf Recovery Unit, all analysis showed a declining trend in species nesting and abundance. For the Dry Tortugas Recovery Unit, there are 9 years of data, but a longer time series is needed to detect a trend. Finally, for the Greater Caribbean Recovery Unit, an increasing trend was reported in the Yucatan over a 15-year period from 1987-2001; however, nesting since 2001 has declined.