September 7, 2007
Sea Turtles Still Endangered, Threatened
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A U.S. study focusing on global sea turtle populations has found that half a dozen species are still endangered or threatened despite promising increases in the number of adult females and nests, U.S. wildlife officials said Thursday.
Officials with two U.S. federal agencies recently completed the five-year study after analyzing population trends, habitat conditions and conservation measures in the Caribbean and around the world.
The leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtle species are listed as endangered. The breeding populations of Olive ridley and green sea turtles are endangered along Mexico's Pacific Coast, and threatened elsewhere, the study found.
Coastal development, beachfront lighting, pollution and hunting are contributing to the demise of the sea turtles, which come ashore periodically to lay their eggs in "nests" dug in the sand, according to the study.
"Threatened" means a species could become "endangered," which means the species might face extinction.
But some sea species were found to be doing well in specific areas where conservationists and researchers helped to protect their habitat, said Sandy MacPherson, national sea turtle coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted the review along with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
"A lot of times that has to do with the fact that there is a dedicated research program," she said, adding there has been an increase in leatherback nests in Puerto Rico, where prime nesting spots for the endangered sea turtles draws international researchers.
The study is federally mandated every five years, but the last study was done in 1995 because of funding and staffing problems, MacPherson said.