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Loggerhead turtles may net endangered protection (with video)

BOSTON — The federal government has recommended an endangered-species listing for loggerhead turtles, a species that nests on Anna Maria Island beaches, as well as along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

It’s a decision that could have big implications for the fishing industry.

The listing was proposed Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for seven species of loggerheads.

The NOAA’s fisheries division says one of the biggest threats to loggerheads is fishing gear. Environmental groups say the proposal marks a turning point for turtle protection by requiring new measures to prevent turtles from getting caught in the gear.

The proposal is open to public comment and could be in effect by summer 2011.

The slow-maturing loggerheads typically are more than 3 feet long and weigh about 250 pounds.

The change in status for the loggerhead was good news for Suzie Fox, director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch.

“This will give them time to study why there is a drop in turtle nests,” Fox said.

She said locally there has been a drop from close to 400 nests on Anna Maria Island beaches in 1997-98 to 167 in the 2009 turtle nesting season.

There is no definitive cause for the decline, but if it is pollution or another factor, putting the turtle on the endangered list provides the breathing space to find out the reason, she said.

Also, placing a species on the endangered list is a very long process, Fox said.

“I remember they were talking about doing this many years ago,” she said, “so upgrading a species takes a lot of time and study.

“This confirms that they make sure they are not wrong about the decision.”

— The Associated Press and Carl Mario Nudi, Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.

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