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North Florida Field Office

Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea
Turtle (Caretta caretta) Recovery Plan, Second Revision
Frequently Asked Questions

2008 Revised Plan - (PDF - 2.0MB)

Q1: What do we mean by recovery?

A1: Recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered or threatened species is reversed, and threats removed or reduced so that the species' long-term survival in the wild can be ensured. The goal of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is recovery of listed species to levels where protection under the ESA is no longer necessary.

Q2: What is a recovery plan?

A2: A recovery plan provides information on the management and research activities related to recovery of an endangered or threatened species. It serves as a road map for species recovery by laying out where to go and how to get there. Primarily, a recovery plan: (1) delineates those aspects of the species’ biology, life history, and threats that are pertinent to its endangerment and recovery; (2) outlines and justifies a recovery strategy; (3) identifies the actions necessary to support recovery of the species; and (4) identifies goals and criteria by which to measure progress. The information included in a recovery plan provides a framework of actions for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and their partners to take to protect a federally listed species and its habitat to recover the species so that its population is self-sustaining and no longer needs protection under the ESA.

Q3: What is the Northwest Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle Recovery Plan’s history?

A3: An initial recovery plan for the loggerhead turtle was approved 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 December 26, 1991, a separate recovery plan for the U.S. Atlantic population of the loggerhead turtle was approved. In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively referred to as the Services), which share regulatory jurisdiction for sea turtles, initiated the process to revise the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead plan for a second time. A seven-member Northwest Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle Recovery Team, consisting of species experts, drafted this revision.

Q4: Why was the plan being revised?

A4: The Services regularly review recovery plans to ensure the most current information is being considered in our actions to recover listed species and to incorporate changes in our plans where appropriate. Since approval of the first revised plan in 1991, significant research was accomplished and important conservation and recovery activities were undertaken. As a result, we have a greater knowledge of the species, threats affecting its recovery, and its population status and trends. These advances in our understanding of the loggerhead sea turtle made a second revision of the Northwest Atlantic loggerhead recovery plan necessary.

Q5: What are Recovery Units?

A5: Recovery units are subunits of the listed species that are geographically or otherwise identifiable and essential to the recovery of the species. Recovery units are individually necessary to conserve genetic robustness, demographic robustness, important life history stages, or some other feature necessary for long-term sustainability of the species. Establishing recovery units is a useful management tool for species occurring across wide ranges with multiple populations, varying ecological pressures, or different threats in different parts of their range. Recovery units are primarily delineated on a biological basis; however, boundaries may be modified to reflect differing management regimes. Recovery units are not necessarily self-sustaining viable units on their own, but instead need to be collectively recovered to ensure recovery of the entire listed entity.

Q6: What Recovery Units did you identify for the Northwest Atlantic population of the loggerhead sea turtle?

A6: The Recovery Team designated the following five recovery units for the Northwest Atlantic population of the loggerhead. The first four recovery units represent nesting assemblages in the southeastern U.S. The boundaries of these four recovery units were delineated based on geographic isolation and geopolitical boundaries. The fifth recovery unit is a combination of all other nesting assemblages occurring within the Northwest Atlantic.

Northern Recovery Unit: The Northern Recovery Unit is defined as loggerheads originating from nesting beaches from the Florida-Georgia border through southern Virginia (the northern extent of the nesting range).

Peninsular Florida Recovery Unit: The Peninsular Florida Recovery Unit is defined as loggerheads originating from nesting beaches from the Florida-Georgia border through Pinellas County on the west coast of Florida, excluding the islands west of Key West, Florida.

Dry Tortugas Recovery Unit: The Dry Tortugas Recovery Unit is defined as loggerheads originating from nesting beaches throughout the islands located west of Key West, Florida, because these islands are geographically separated from other recovery units.

Northern Gulf of Mexico Recovery Unit: The Northern Gulf of Mexico Recovery Unit is defined as loggerheads originating from nesting beaches from Franklin County on the northwest Gulf coast of Florida through Texas (the western extent of U.S. nesting range).

Greater Caribbean Recovery Unit: The Greater Caribbean Recovery Unit is composed of loggerheads originating from all other nesting assemblages within the Greater Caribbean ( Mexico through French Guiana, The Bahamas, Lesser Antilles, and Greater Antilles).

Q7: Under the revised plan, what recovery objectives did you identify?

A7: The Loggerhead Recovery Team identified the following recovery objectives:

    1. Ensure that the number of nests in each recovery unit is increasing and that this increase corresponds to an increase in the number of nesting females.
    2. Ensure the in-water abundance of juveniles in both neritic and oceanic habitats is increasing and is increasing at a greater rate than strandings of similar age classes.
    3. Manage sufficient nesting beach habitat to ensure successful nesting.
    4. Manage sufficient feeding, migratory, and internesting marine habitats to ensure successful growth and reproduction.
    5. Eliminate legal harvest.
    6. Implement scientifically based nest management plans.
    7. Minimize nest predation.
    8. Recognize and respond to mass/unusual mortality or disease events appropriately.
    9. Develop and implement local, state, Federal, and international legislation to ensure long-term protection of loggerheads and their terrestrial and marine habitats.
    10. Minimize bycatch in domestic and international commercial and artisanal fisheries.
    11. Minimize trophic changes from fishery harvest and habitat alteration.
    12. Minimize marine debris ingestion and entanglement.
    13. Minimize vessel strike mortality.

Specific recovery criteria were also identified and may be found in brief form within the Plan’s Executive Summary and in more detail within the Plan itself.

Q8: Do recovery programs work?

A8: Yes, but recovery is a challenge that takes time, especially for long-lived species such as sea turtles. We are attempting to halt or reverse declines that in some instances have been more than 200 years in the making. Even in the face of a substantial increase in the number of species listed over the past decade, the recovery efforts of the USFWS, NMFS, other Federal agencies, States, conservation organizations, businesses, and private landowners have successfully halted and reversed the decline of many listed species. Of all the species listed since 1968, less than one percent have been recognized as extinct, and subsequently removed from the list. The fact that 99 percent of listed species have not been lost speaks to the success of the ESA in conserving species that are at risk of extinction.

2008 Revised Plan - (PDF - 2.0MB)

black graphic pointer - pointing to right Executive Summary black graphic pointer - pointing to right Annotated Threats Tables Press Release

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Last modified January 16, 2009

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