There’s Good News for Imperiled Green Sea Turtles

After conducting a global status review for green sea turtles, federal officials say some of their populations have rebounded enough to be downlisted from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted the review, have proposed reclassifying green sea turtles, who can be found in oceans around the world, into 11 distinct populations, which the agencies stated will allow for a more tailored approach when it comes to protecting each population from different threats they face.

Globally, green sea turtles are listed as endangered by the IUCN and continue to face a number of threats ranging from a loss of coastal habitat to capture and entanglement in fishing gear. They also suffer as a result of pollution, plastic and other marine debris they may eat, disease, climate change and poaching of adults and eggs that is believed to have led to severe declines in their numbers over the years.

There is, however, good news for green sea turtles who live and nest in Florida and along the Pacific Coast of Mexico, who the agencies believe have recovered enough to have their status downgraded. Conservationists are celebrating the announcement and highlighting it as proof the Endangered Species Act is working as it should to provide a critical lifeline to species on the brink.

“The proposal to revise the status of green sea turtles breeding in Florida and Mexico from endangered to threatened shows that conservation is making a difference, and once again demonstrates the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act in protecting and recovering our most at-risk species,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

There’s also good news for green sea turtles who live in Hawaii. The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs also petitioned NOAA to have federal protection removed in 2012, but in this announcement the agencies denied the request.

Patrick Opay, the endangered species branch chief of NOAA’s Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office, told the Associated Press that even though their numbers are increasing slowly Hawaii still has fewer than 4,000 green sea turtles. He added that an estimated 96 percent of them also nest in the same place in the Northern Hawaiian Islands, which makes them vulnerable to disease outbreaks, climate change and rising sea levels.

There is also continued widespread public support for keeping Hawaii’s green sea turtles, or honu as they’re known, protected. More than 36,000 people signed the Center for Biological Diversity’s Care2 petition urging the National Marine Fisheries Service to keep them listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Under the proposal, Hawaii’s green sea turtles will be included in the Central North Pacific population, and will continue to remain protected as a threatened species. For populations that aren’t doing as well, protection will also be increased in American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The proposal is now open for a 90-day public comment period, which will be available until June 22, while a public hearing will be held later on April 8 at the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

76 comments

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 2 years ago

Great news! Thanks

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Mmmm should we believe them?

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

"NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted the review, have proposed reclassifying green sea turtles, who can be found in oceans around the world, into 11 distinct populations, which the agencies stated will allow for a more tailored approach when it comes to protecting each population from different threats they face."

OMG here we go again. NOAA and USFWdis-S. I do not believe any "facts" that are submitted by them because they have a hidden agendas. They delisted wolves, considering humback whales, now the turtles. Call me pessimistic but I do not believe them. Too many turtles were lost in the gulf to have such good numbers and more are going to be dying.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the information.

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Greg Harding
Greg Harding2 years ago

Anytime I read an article that says a species has been downgraded from endangered it brings me joy and hope, we can save so many in peril of extinction, all we need to do is care enough.

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Nimue Pendragon

This is good news about the numbers increasing, but all sea turtles still need help - many tiny babies are picked off by birds as they scramble to get to the ocean, and of those who make if that far, many are then eaten by sea creatures. We need to help them as they have such a hard time just staying alive.

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Nimue Pendragon

This is good news about the numbers increasing, but all sea turtles still need help - many tiny babies are picked off by birds as they scramble to get to the ocean, and of those who make if that far, many are then eaten by sea creatures. We need to help them as they have such a hard time just staying alive.

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Sue H.
Sue H2 years ago

Good to know that folks are doing their best to help the turtles.

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Rose R.
Rose R2 years ago

Ever vigilant. It is our duty to be stewards.

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