Loggerhead turtles are now protected from Mississippi to North Carolina thanks to a new ruling by the federal government.
On Wednesday the United States announced that 685 miles of beaches and 300,000 square miles of ocean off the Gulf and Atlantic coasts between the two Southern states are now considered protected.
The areas, which make up the largest critical habitat ruling in US history, are considered critical nesting and roaming grounds for loggerhead turtles. Now that they’re protected, people can still visit them but any oil drilling or fisheries need to be put to further investigation before they’re approved.
“Given the vital role loggerhead sea turtles play in maintaining the health of our oceans, rebuilding their populations is key as we work to ensure healthy and resilient oceans for generations to come,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), was responsible for the ruling.
The protection came as a response from a lawsuit filed by environmental organizations last year asking for the area, which serves as nesting grounds for 84 percent of all sea turtles, to be protected.
Loggerheads have been considered endangered since 1978. Along with Kemp’s ridley, leatherback and green sea turtles, they are often prematurely killed by pollution, fishing gear and climate change in the areas where they nest.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock