WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service will launch a one year status review of Hawaiian green turtles to determine if they are a distinct population segment from other green turtles and, if so, if they should be removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.
Green turtles have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act throughout the world since 1978 except for “endangered” breeding populations in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico.
While globally green turtles have suffered a massive reduction in numbers over the last century, the NMFS says the Hawaiian population has increased by 25 percent over the last 25 years.
The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs petitioned the NMFS to recognize a distinct Hawaiian subpopulation and remove its Endangered Species Act protections in February after the International Union for Conservation of Nature downlisted the Hawaiian population to a species of “least concern.”
According to the IUCN, the Hawaiian population is genetically isolated from other green turtle populations and has approached historical population levels before the species was decimated by hunting for meat and harvesting of eggs.
If a Hawaiian discrete population segment is recognized and delisted, federal protection for the species would cease and its management would fall entirely to the state of Hawaii.
The NMFS is using the petition as an opportunity to launch a review of the global listing status of the green turtle, suggesting that there may be other discrete population segments which should be recognized and whose conservation status could be independently evaluated.
The public has until October 12 to comment on both the petition to recognize and delist a Hawaiian discrete population segment, and the global status review.