WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service added nearly 42,000 square miles of marine habitat off the Pacific Coast of the United States to its critical habitat designation for the endangered leatherback sea turtle.
The designated areas stretch from Washington to California and include waters from the ocean surface down to a maximum depth of 262 feet.
The resdesignation was in response to a 2007 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Turtle Island Restoration Network, arguing that the existing critical habitat designation, which was limited to a small area on the western end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was insufficient for conservation of the Pacific Ocean population of the species.
Listed as endangered since 1970, the leatherback is the sole remaining member of a family of large sea turtles that once comprised eight separate genera.
Leatherbacks are the largest marine turtles, growing up to seven feet in length and weighing up to 1,500 pounds. The largest ever found was nearly 10 feet long and weighed 2,020 pounds.