OLYMPIA – State wildlife managers are seeking public comments on the protective status of three species of sea turtles that are on Washington's list of endangered, threatened, and sensitive species.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) periodically reviews the status of protected species in the state. The public can comment through Feb. 13, 2017, on wildlife managers' recommendations to:
- Keep leatherback sea turtles listed as a state endangered species.
- Elevate the level of protection for loggerhead sea turtles to endangered from threatened species status.
- Keep green sea turtles listed as a state threatened species.
The draft reviews for all three species of sea turtles can be found on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/
Written comments on the reviews and recommendations can be submitted via email to TandEpubliccom@dfw.wa.gov or by mail to Hannah Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
WDFW staff members are tentatively scheduled to discuss the reviews and recommendations with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its April 2017 meeting. The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW. For meeting dates and times, check the commission webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/
Leatherback sea turtles that occur in Washington belong to the western Pacific population and have been listed as an endangered species in the state since 1981.These turtles migrate across the Pacific from nesting beaches in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to forage each summer in waters off the west coast of North America, including Washington.
The population of western Pacific leatherback sea turtles has declined by 80 percent since the mid-20th century, primarily due to harvest by humans, animal predation on turtle eggs, and entanglement of turtles in marine debris. Despite actions by national and state governments and conservation groups to protect this species, the western Pacific population is expected to decline by 96 percent from historical levels by the year 2040.
Loggerhead sea turtles have been listed as a threatened species in Washington since 1990. These turtles are part of the north Pacific population, which migrates from nesting sites near Japan to waters off the west coast of North America. Loggerhead sea turtles are rarely seen in Washington.
The north Pacific population of loggerhead sea turtles declined substantially in the last half of the 20th century. Threats to these turtles include harvest by humans, incidental capture in fisheries and damage to nesting habitat.
Green sea turtles that occur in Washington belong to the east Pacific population, which is mostly found in waters from San Diego, Calif., south to Peru and the Galapagos Islands. The global population of green sea turtles has declined by 67 percent in the last 100 to 150 years, though the east Pacific population of green sea turtles seems to be faring slightly better. Green sea turtles face similar threats as loggerhead sea turtles.
Forty-five species of fish and wildlife are listed for protection as state endangered, threatened or sensitive species. Information on Washington's protective listing classifications can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/