NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently announced a final rule designating areas in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico that are within the Northwest Atlantic Ocean loggerhead sea turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS) as critical habitat. The loggerhead sea turtle was originally listed as threatened in 1978, and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS has been listed as threatened since September 2011.
The designation areas include one or a combination of nearshore reproductive habitat, winter area, breeding areas, constricted migratory corridors, and/or Sargassum habitat. Thirty-six designation areas for the DPS are located offshore Alabama (1), Florida (20), Georgia (4), Mississippi (2), North Carolina (5), and South Carolina (4), while two areas designated for sargassum generally extend from the western Gulf of Mexico to the eastern edge of the loop current, through the Straits of Florida and along the Atlantic coast from the western edge of the Gulf Stream eastward.
In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced its issuance of a final rule designating ~685 miles of U.S. coastal beach shoreline in North Carolina (96 miles), South Carolina (79 miles), Georgia (69 miles), Florida (397 miles), Alabama (26 miles), and Mississippi (18 miles) as critical habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of the loggerhead sea turtle. The area covers 45% of the coastal beach shoreline and ~84% of the documented number of nests within these states. The loggerhead sea turtle was originally listed as threatened in 1978, and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean DPS has been listed as threatened since September 2011.
The designations become effective Monday, August 11.