November 14, 2013

Marine Fisheries sets public hearing in
Dare on loggerhead marine critical habitat

The National Marine Fisheries Service will hold a public hearing related to the proposed designation of Marine Critical Habitat for the loggerhead sea turtle under the Endangered Species Act on Thursday, Nov. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Dare County Board of Commissioners Meeting Room in Manteo.

NMFS staff will present a brief overview of the Proposed Rule titled “Designation of Critical Habitat for the Northwest Atlantic Ocean Loggerhead Sea Turtle Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and Determination Regarding Critical Habitat for the North Pacific Ocean Loggerhead DPS.”

Following this overview, members of the public will have the opportunity to go on record with comments on the proposed designation. Members of the public may also submit written comments at the hearing, or via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 18. To see it, go to!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2013-0079-0002

Doors will open for registration at 6:30 p.m. for sign-up and seating. Time allotted will depend upon the number of speakers but will likely be limited to five minutes each. Registered speakers will be asked to indicate their full name, contact information, and the identity of any organizations on whose behalf they may be speaking.

A large local turnout is expected at this meeting because of the possibility that the marine – and a separate terrestrial – critical habitat designation could affect seashore beach access, beach nourishment, and replacing and building new bridges to breach hotspots on Highway 12.

Four different loggerhead sea turtle marine habitats for the northwest Atlantic distinct population segment are being considered in the proposal. They are nearshore reproductive habitat, breeding habitat, migratory habitat, and winter habitat.
The nearshore reproductive critical habitat in the proposal aligns with the Terrestrial Critical Habitat proposed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for which  a public comment period was provided in September.

Currently, the waters off of Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout are not included in this marine habitat category proposal since they were not included in the terrestrial proposal. However, the Southern Environmental Law Center has requested that the terrestrial proposed rule be modified to include Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout.
Breeding critical habitat is not proposed in North Carolina waters. The first proposed designation of breeding habitat waters occurs off of Titusville, Fla.
Migratory critical habitat has been proposed from approximately Kill Devil Hills to Cape Lookout. The waters proposed extend from the shoreline to the 200 meter depth contour (continental shelf).
Winter critical habitat has been proposed for waters beginning off of Cape Point south to the North Carolina-South Carolina line. These waters begin at the 20-meter contour and end at the 100-meter contour.


For more information on the issue of critical habitat for loggerhead sea turtles, go to

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