NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Federal agencies say 685 miles of beaches and nearly 200,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.
Conservation groups say it’s the largest such designation ever.It includes 88 nesting beaches from North Carolina through Mississippi, plus waters just off of those beaches, floating algae mats where baby turtles live and other marine areas.
The beaches were listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the marine habitats by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service.
A federal agency that names a critical habitat must be consulted before federal permits or contracts are issued there. It does not affect ownership or create wildlife preserves or refuges. Loggerheads are vulnerable to boat collisions, fishing nets and beach alterations.