Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Plan

close up view of Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle, photo by USFWSOverview


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The Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) (ESA), establishes policies and procedures for identifying, listing, and protecting species of wildlife that are endangered or threatened with extinction. The purposes of the ESA are “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, [and] to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species...” The ESA defines an “endangered species” as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” A “threatened species” is defined as “any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) was listed as endangered throughout its range on December 2, 1970 and has received Federal protection under the ESA since that time.

The Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are responsible for administering the ESA’s provisions as they apply to the loggerhead sea turtle. Day-to-day management authority for endangered and threatened species under the Departments’ jurisdictions has been delegated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), respectively. FWS and NMFS share Federal jurisdiction for sea turtles, with FWS having lead responsibility on the nesting beaches and NMFS in the marine environment.

To help identify and guide species recovery needs, section 4(f) of the ESA directs the Secretary to develop and implement recovery plans for listed species or populations. Such plans are to include: (1) a description of site-specific management actions necessary to conserve the species or populations; (2) objective, measurable criteria which, when met, will allow the species or populations to be removed from the endangered and threatened species list; and (3) estimates of the time and funding required to achieve the plan’s goals and intermediate steps. Section 4 of the ESA and regulations (50 CFR Part 424) promulgated to implement its listing provisions, also set forth the procedures for reclassifying and delisting species on the Federal lists. A species can be delisted if the Secretary of the Interior and/or the Secretary of Commerce determines that the species no longer meets the endangered or threatened status based upon these five factors listed in Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA:

(1) the present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;

(2) over utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;

(3) disease or predation;

(4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and

(5) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

Further, a species may be delisted, according to 50 CFR Part 424.11(d), if the best scientific
and commercial data available substantiate that the species or population is neither endangered nor threatened for one of the following reasons: (1) extinction, (2) recovery, or (3) original data for classification of the species were in error.
NMFS approved the initial recovery plan for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle on September 19, 1984. This initial plan was a multi-species plan for all six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. On August 21,1992 , NMFS and FWS approved a separate recovery plan for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. In 2001, NMFS and FWS initiated the process to revise the plan for a second time. A Kemp’s Ridley Turtle Recovery Team, consisting of species experts, was established to draft this revision.

Since approval of the first revised plan in 1992, significant research has been accomplished and important conservation and recovery activities have been undertaken. As a result, we have a greater knowledge of the species and its status. This second revision of the recovery plan for the Kemp’s ridley addresses current threats and needs, highlights conservation accomplishments that have been undertaken since the species was listed, and specifically addresses the planning requirements of the ESA.


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