US agencies to review turtles status

Two federal agencies – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service – announced plans last week to conduct a five-year review of all species of marine turtles nesting on U.S. beaches.

The agencies will compile data on the turtles from universities, state and local agencies and the public to determine whether their current categories under the Endangered Species Act are accurate.

Loggerhead turtles are considered threatened under federal law, but recent nesting data has shown a drop-off that could, if proven serious enough, cause them to be re-listed as “endangered.” Kemp’s ridley turtles, considered endangered, have shown some recovery trends in recent years.

No one really knows what the reviews will conclude, said Therese Conant, a sea turtle biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

“We have a lot more information now on the species” than in 1995, when the last review was conducted, “and even then we were using old data.”

Though federal law stipulates at least one review every five years, Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Jacksonville, said personnel changes and staffing problems delayed this one.

The agencies are soliciting public comment on matters relating to green, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley turtle populations.

Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal