The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the cost of designating almost 750 miles of beaches as critical habitat for endangered loggerhead sea turtles even as the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed also designating waters near those nesting beaches for that purpose.
If you go
What: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled three informational open houses, followed by formal public hearings in Charleston, Wilmington, N.C., and Morehead City, N.C.
When: Local open house, 5:30-6:30 p.m.; public hearing, 7-9 p.m., Aug. 6.
Where: S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Marine Resources Research Institute Auditorium, 217 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston.
More info: www.fws.gov
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was designating beaches in states from North Carolina to Mississippi as critical habitat, about 175 miles of that along the cost of the Carolinas.
On Wednesday, the National Marine Fisheries Service also proposed that waters near those beaches, water habitat off North Carolina and Florida and water migratory corridors between the two states also be designated critical. That agency is taking public comment through Sept. 16.
The Fish and Wildlife Service estimated it will cost about $150,000 a year to administer the Endangered Species Act along the designated beaches. The number reflects the costs of government reviews of projects such as beach renourishment that might affect the turtles.
While loggerheads have been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1978, the agency two years ago changed the listing from a single worldwide designation to nine distinct groups to focus on the need for conservation in specific areas.
Three nonprofit groups, including Oceana Inc., sued in federal court in San Francisco last January seeking to have the agency designate the habitat, something Fish and Wildlife said it was doing when it received the complaint.
The nesting areas, and waters near them, are seen as critical for the recovery of the species threatened in the northwest Atlantic. About 19 percent of the shoreline designated in the six states is owned by the federal government; 21 percent is owned by state governments and the rest is private.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said many of the locations are already considered critical habitat for other endangered species, so federal agencies already consider impacts of projects on such areas.
The agency has extended the public comment, also through Sept. 16, and has set public hearings for Aug. 6 in Charleston, Aug. 7 in Wilmington, N.C., and Aug. 8 in Morehead City, N.C.
Oceana released a statement Wednesday saying that while the new water designations by National Marine Fisheries are a step forward, loggerheads regularly swim as far north as Massachusetts. And it said the proposal doesn’t protect waters where turtles feed on both coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Loggerheads migrate thousands of miles, facing giant shrimp trawls, hundreds of plastic bags, speeding yachts, fishing lines and even oil rigs, all obstacles jeopardizing their ability to feed and swim to shore to lay eggs,” said Amanda Keledjian, a marine scientist at Oceana.
-Unhatched loggerhead sea turtle eggs look like ping pong balls. Only nine remained in tact at a nest at The Washout on Folly Beach after inventory was taken Sept. 15. Photo by Abi Nicholas/Tideline×
Above is one of many loggerhead turtle nesting sites on the beach at Botany Bay Plantation on Edisto Island. The tract includes diverse habitats.×
Unhatched loggerhead sea turtle eggs on Folly Beach look like ping pong balls.×