NOAA proposes habitat protection for sea turtles

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Federal biologists have proposed the first open ocean habitat protections for the endangered leatherback sea turtle along the West Coast, an action that could affect future development of offshore renewable energy, aquaculture and desalination plants.

The proposal by NOAA Fisheries Service Tuesday was prompted by settlement of a lawsuit brought by conservation groups.

Those groups expressed frustration that the proposal did not cover a larger area or address threats from commercial fishing.

The three areas extend about 125 miles off the entire coast of Washington, the northern two-thirds of Oregon, and the central coast of California between Point Arena and Point Vincente.

NOAA sea turtle ecologist Sara McNulty says the areas were chosen to cover feeding areas and migration routes used by leatherbacks.