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West Coast Leatherback May Get Critical Habitat

WASHINGTON (CN) - The endangered leatherback sea turtle may soon gain more designated critical habitat off the U.S. West Coast in addition to the existing designated habitat around St. Croix.

Acting on a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposes to revise the leatherback critical habitat designation to include an area of roughly 71,000 square miles from just south of the Washington/Oregon border southward to Point Sur, California and along a diagonal line due west of Point Conception, California.

According to the petition, inclusion of this area will reduce the impact of the large mesh drift gillnet fishing fleet on the leatherback. Use of the gillnets is already prohibited in the area from mid-August to mid-November, under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act

The leatherback sea turtle was listed as endangered throughout its range on June 2, 1970.

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