Green sea turtles no longer in peril

April 07, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 02:04 am IST - Miami:

Decades of conservation pays off in Florida and Mexico

Green sea turtles of Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico are no longer considered "endangered," U.S. officials said, hailing decades of conservation work for saving the long-imperilled creatures.

Breeding populations on the beaches of Florida and the west coast of Mexico are now described as "threatened" and still merit protection under the Endangered Species Act, but do not face an imminent risk of extinction, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.

In Florida alone, there are some 2,250 nesting females counted on beaches each year, up from only a handful in 1978 when the breeding populations were first listed as endangered, an FWS spokesman said.

As part of the change, the US FWS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries divided green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) globally into 11 distinct population segments, "allowing for tailored conservation approaches for each population," the agencies said in a statement.

That leaves three populations of the turtles worldwide that are considered endangered and at the highest risk of disappearing from the planet — those that live in the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Central South Pacific and Central West Pacific Ocean.

The changes were initially proposed last year and made final on Tuesday after officials reviewed the scientific data and an outpouring of more than 900 public comments. "Successful conservation and management efforts developed in Florida and along the Pacific coast of Mexico are a roadmap for further recovery strategies of green turtle populations around the world," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries.

Sea turtles have long faced a host of threats, from beach development that destroyed their nesting habitat, to pollution, to fishing nets that entangled them.

Successful measures have included protection of nesting beaches, reduction of bycatch in fisheries and prohibitions on the direct harvest of sea turtles, NOAA said.

Officials at NOAA estimate that there are currently 571,220 nesting female green sea turtles around the world. The largest population, including more than 167,000 females, lives in the North Atlantic. By contrast, among the endangered populations, between 404 and 992 are believed to live in the Mediterranean, and just over 9,000 in the Central West and Central South Pacific, NOAA said.

Challenges remain, including climate change and sea level rise that may erode beach nesting habitat and raise the temperature of sand, which can "result in skewed sex ratios and lethal incubation conditions," the agencies noted. "Sea turtles face a lot of threats," said Catherine Kilduff of the Center for Biological Diversity. "The undeniable recovery of most green sea turtle populations creates a hopeful spot in our changing oceans."AFP

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.