Once-abundant green sea turtles now in danger of extinction - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Once-abundant green sea turtles now in danger of extinction

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According to a 2012 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there are eleven green sea turtle distinct population segments (DPS), all of which are either threatened or endangered. One of these, the Central West Pacific DPS, is found only in Guam and a few other Pacific nations.

While currently listed as threatened, NOAA fishery biologist Jennifer Schultz, said the DPS is now in danger of becoming extinct. "NOAA fisheries and the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to change the status from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the research for this change is based on the best available scientific information," she explained.

She said threats to the green sea turtle population in Guam include illegal harvesting of turtles and eggs, loss and degradation of habitat, fishery by-catch, entanglement in marine debris, climate change, and sea level rise. "We did look at all of the turtles that genetically belonged to the DPS," she added.

She said it includes turtles that nest in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

While illegal harvesting is suspected in Guam, legal harvesting does take place elsewhere. Schultz said with the proposed change, regulations regarding the capture and consumption of green sea turtles would remain the same, but educational or exhibition uses would now be prohibited. "It's kind of complicated to think about status going from threatened to endangered," she said. "And it does reflect our concerns that the DPS is in danger of extinction, but I think that people should look at this in a way that's very hopeful."

Schultz said the situation in Guam is similar to one in Florida in the 1970s, when green sea turtles were listed as endangered due to commercial harvesting. Years later, NOAA is now proposing to delist that DPS down to threatened. "It's been a huge success story for us and we're hopeful that there will be a similar outcome for the turtles in the Central West Pacific DPS," she stated.

Members of the community are encouraged to submit their comments on the proposed change by August 26, either online or via postal mail to:

Jennifer Schultz
NOAA Fisheries
1315 East West Highway #13535
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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