Fed. lawsuit filed about FL's most prevalent sea turtle | Environment

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Fed. lawsuit filed about FL's most prevalent sea turtle
Environment

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Catherine Eastman has seen a lot of loggerhead sea turtles as a volunteer coordinator of the Sea Turtle Patrol in St. Johns County.

"That is primarily the sea turtle we see here," Eastman nodded.

She described the large turtles, saying, "They could a weigh a couple hundred pounds, be 3 feet long and 2 ½ - 3 feet wide. Oh yeah, they're big."

Eastman said Florida has the second largest population of loggerheads in the world. Oman is the only place with more loggerheads.

Loggerhead sea turtles are also the subject of a lawsuit filed this week in federal court. 

A group of non-profit organizations are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the agencies need to designate special areas for loggerheads called critical habitat.

Jaclyn Lopez of St. Petersburg is an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.

She said the designation of critical habitat is "essential for conservation of a species and ensures our activities don't alter that habitat."

Lopez said the federal agencies failed to meet a September 2012 deadline to designate critical habitat areas specifically for loggerhead turtles.

The loggerheads in Florida's waters are listed as threatened.

State numbers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show a decline in sea turtle nests since 1989, but a recent increase in the last two years.

However, Eastman said more data is needed.

"In talking about science and trends, you have to have more than one or two years of data to suggest an real up-tick," Eastman explained.

Lopez said the lawsuit aims to have the federal agencies zero in on federally permitted activities such as beach re-nourishment, coastal armoring, fisheries, and water pollution.

"It would make sure that federally permitted activities don't impact critical habitat," she added.

Eastman says the loggerhead sea turtles need help.

"There's a lot of policy-maker type of change that has to be addressed," she noted. 

Environment

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