Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings, 15271-15337 [2015-06136]

Download as PDF Vol. 80 Monday, No. 55 March 23, 2015 Part II Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Proposed Rule VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4717 Sfmt 4717 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15272 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules A public hearing will be held in Hawai‘i. Interested parties may provide oral or written comments at this hearing. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 [Docket No. 120425024–5022–02] RIN 0648–XB089 Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Interior. ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; request for comments; notice of public hearing. AGENCY: The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas; hereafter referred to as the green turtle) is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species, with the exception of the Florida and Mexican Pacific coast breeding populations, which are listed as endangered. We, NMFS and USFWS, find that the green turtle is composed of 11 distinct population segments (DPSs) that qualify as ‘‘species’’ for listing under the ESA. We propose to remove the current range-wide listing and, in its place, list eight DPSs as threatened and three as endangered. We also propose to apply existing protective regulations to the DPSs. We solicit comments on these proposed actions. Although not determinable at this time, designation of critical habitat may be prudent, and we solicit relevant information for those DPSs occurring within U.S. jurisdiction. In the interim, we propose to continue the existing critical habitat designation (i.e., waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico) in effect for the North Atlantic DPS. This proposed rule also constitutes the 12-month finding on a petition to reclassify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS and to delist that DPS. Although we find the Hawaiian green turtle population to constitute a DPS (referred to in this proposed rule as the Central North Pacific DPS), we do not find delisting warranted. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be received by close of business on June 22, 2015. A public hearing will be held on April 8, 2015 from 6 to 8 p.m., with an informational open house starting at 5:30 p.m. Requests for additional public hearings must be made in writing and received by May 7, 2015. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by NOAA– NMFS–2012–0154, by the following methods: • Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. 1. Go to www.regulations.gov/ #!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-20120154. 2. Click the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ icon, complete the required fields. 3. Enter or attach your comments. OR • Mail: Submit written comments to Green Turtle Proposed Listing Rule, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 EastWest Highway, Room 13535, Silver Spring, MD 20910; or Green Turtle Proposed Listing Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Florida Ecological Services Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32256. OR • Public hearing: Interested parties may provide oral or written comments at the public hearing to be held at the Japanese Cultural Center, 2454 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96826. Parking is available at the Japanese Cultural Center for $5. Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by the Services. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. The Services will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous). The proposed rule is available electronically at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/ green.htm and http://www.fws.gov/ DATES: Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20 factsheets/green-sea-turtle.htm. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Schultz, NMFS (ph. 301–427– 8443, email jennifer.schultz@noaa.gov), or Ann Marie Lauritsen, USFWS (ph. 904–731–3032, email annmarie_ lauritsen@fws.gov). Persons who use a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877– 8339, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Public Comments Solicited on the Proposed Listing We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal be as accurate and effective as possible and informed by the best available scientific and commercial information. Therefore, we request comments or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party concerning this proposed rule. We are seeking information and comments on whether each of the 11 proposed green turtle DPSs qualify as DPSs, whether listing of each DPS is warranted, and, if so, whether they should be classified as threatened or endangered as described in the ‘‘Listing Determinations Under the ESA’’ section provided below. Specifically, we are soliciting information on the following subjects relative to green turtles within the 11 proposed DPSs: (1) Historical and current population status and trends, (2) historical and current distribution, (3) migratory movements and behavior, (4) genetic population structure, (5) current or planned activities that may adversely affect green turtles, (6) conservation efforts to protect green turtles, and (7) our extinction risk analysis and findings. We request that all data, information, and comments be accompanied by supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or reprints of pertinent publications. We will consider comments and new information when making final determinations. Public Comments Solicited on Critical Habitat Though we are not proposing to designate critical habitat at this time, we request evaluations describing the quality and extent of existing habitats within U.S. jurisdiction for the proposed North Atlantic, South Atlantic (U.S. Virgin Islands), Central South Pacific (American Samoa), Central West Pacific (Commonwealth of the Northern E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam), Central North Pacific, and East Pacific DPSs, as well as information on other areas that may qualify as critical habitat for these proposed DPSs. Specifically, we are soliciting the identification of particular areas within the geographical area occupied by these species that include physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of these DPSs and that may require special management considerations or protection (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)(A)(i)). Essential features may include, but are not limited to, features specific to individual species’ ranges, habitats, and life history characteristics within the following general categories of habitat features: (1) Space for individual growth and for normal behavior; (2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or other nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; (4) sites for breeding, reproduction and development of offspring; and (5) habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological distributions of the species (50 CFR 424.12(b)). Areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing should also be identified, if such areas are essential for the conservation of the species (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)(A)(ii)). Unlike for occupied habitat, such areas are not required to contain physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species. ESA implementing regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(h) specify that critical habitat shall not be designated within foreign countries or in other areas outside of U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore, we request information only on potential areas of critical habitat within locations under U.S. jurisdiction. Section 4(b)(2) of the ESA requires the Secretary to consider the ‘‘economic impact, impact on national security, and any other relevant impact’’ of designating a particular area as critical habitat. Section 4(b)(2) also authorizes the Secretary to conduct a balancing of the benefits of inclusion and the benefits of exclusion from a critical habitat designation of a particular area, and to exclude any particular area where the Secretary finds that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designation, unless excluding that area will result in extinction of the species. Therefore, for features and areas potentially qualifying as critical habitat, we also request information describing: (1) Activities or other threats to the essential features that could be affected by designating VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 them as critical habitat (pursuant to section 4(b)(8) of the ESA); and (2) the positive and negative economic, national security and other relevant impacts, including benefits to the recovery of the species, likely to result if these areas are designated as critical habitat. We also seek information regarding the conservation benefits of designating areas within nesting beaches and waters under U.S. jurisdiction as critical habitat. Data sought include, but are not limited to the following: (1) Scientific or commercial publications, (2) administrative reports, maps or other graphic materials, and (3) information from experts or other interested parties. Comments and data particularly are sought concerning the following: (1) Maps and specific information describing the amount, distribution, and type of use (e.g., foraging or migration) by green turtles, as well as any additional information on occupied and unoccupied habitat areas; (2) the reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined to be critical habitat as provided by sections 3(5)(A) and 4(b)(2) of the ESA; (3) information regarding the benefits of designating particular areas as critical habitat; (4) current or planned activities in the areas that might be proposed for designation and their possible impacts; (5) any foreseeable economic or other potential impacts resulting from designation, and in particular any impacts on small entities; and (6) whether specific unoccupied areas may be essential to provide additional habitat areas for the conservation of the proposed DPSs. We seek information regarding critical habitat for the proposed green turtle DPSs as soon as possible, but no later than June 22, 2015. Public Hearings The Services will hold a public hearing in Hawai‘i. Interested parties may provide oral or written comments at this hearing. A public hearing will be held on April 8, 2015 from 6 to 8 p.m., with an informational open house starting at 5:30 p.m., at the Japanese Cultural Center, 2454 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96826. Parking is available at the Japanese Cultural Center for $5. If requested by the public by May 7, 2015, additional hearings will be held regarding the proposed listing of the green turtle DPSs. If additional hearings are requested, details regarding location(s), date(s), and time(s) will be published in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15273 References A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon request (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT). Table of Contents I. Background II. Policies for Delineating Species Under the ESA III. Listing Determinations Under the ESA IV. Biology and Life History of Green Turtles V. Overview of the Policies and Process Used To Identify DPSs A. Discreteness Determination 1. Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean Sea 2. Indian Ocean 3. Pacific Ocean B. Significance Determination 1. North Atlantic 2. Mediterranean 3. South Atlantic 4. Southwest Indian 5. North Indian 6. East Indian-West Pacific 7. Central West Pacific 8. Southwest Pacific 9. Central South Pacific 10. Central North Pacific 11. East Pacific C. Summary of Discreteness and Significance Determinations VI. Listing Evaluation Process A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs C. Conservation Efforts D. Extinction Risk Assessments and Findings VII. North Atlantic DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Atlantic DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Atlantic DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear i. Gill Net and Trawl Fisheries ii. Dredge Fishing b. Channel Dredging c. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters e. Effects of Cold Stunning f. Contaminants and Marine Debris C. Conservation Efforts for the North Atlantic DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Atlantic DPS VIII. Mediterranean DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Mediterranean DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Mediterranean DPS E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15274 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear i. Longline Fisheries ii. Set Net (Gill Net) Fishing iii. Trawl Fisheries b. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic c. Pollution d. Effects of Climate Change C. Conservation Efforts D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings IX. South Atlantic DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the South Atlantic DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the South Atlantic DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Marine Debris and Pollution c. Effects of Climate Change C. Conservation Efforts for the South Atlantic DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the South Atlantic DPS X. Southwest Indian DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Southwest Indian DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Indian DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Indian DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Indian DPS XI. North Indian DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Indian DPS VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Indian DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear i. Gill Net Fisheries ii. Trawl Fisheries b. Vessel Strikes c. Beach Driving d. Pollution e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disaster C. Conservation Efforts for the North Indian DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Indian DPS XII. East Indian-West Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Indian-West Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Marine Debris and Pollution c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters C. Conservation Efforts for the East IndianWest Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS XIII. Central West Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central West Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central West Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Vessel Strikes c. Pollution d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 C. Conservation Efforts for the Central West Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central West Pacific DPS XIV. Southwest Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters in the Southwest Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Shark Control Programs c. Boat Strikes and Port Dredging d. Pollution and Marine Debris e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Pacific DPS XV. Central South Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central South Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central South Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Marine Debris and Pollution c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters C. Conservation Efforts for the Central South Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central South Pacific DPS XVI. Central North Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central North Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central North Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear i. Longline Fisheries ii. Gillnet Fisheries iii. Other Gear Types b. Marine Debris and Pollution c. Vessel Interactions d. Effects of Climate Change e. Effects of Spatial Structure C. Conservation Efforts for the Central North Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central North Pacific DPS XVII. East Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Pacific DPS B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear b. Pollution c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters C. Conservation Efforts for the East Pacific DPS D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Pacific DPS XVIII. Proposed Determinations XIX. Significant Portion of the Range XX. Effects of Listing A. Identifying Section 7 Conference and Consultation Requirements B. Critical Habitat C. Take Prohibitions D. Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a Violation of Section 9 of the ESA XXI. Peer Review XXII. Classification A. National Environmental Policy Act B. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork Reduction Act C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism I. Background On July 28, 1978, NMFS and USFWS, collectively referred to as the Services, listed the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) under the ESA (43 FR 32800). Pursuant to the authority that the statute provided, and prior to the current language in the definition of ‘‘species’’ regarding DPSs, the Services listed the species as threatened, except for the Florida and Mexican Pacific Coast breeding populations, which were listed as endangered. The Services published recovery plans for U.S. Atlantic (http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/recovery/ plans.htm) and U.S. Pacific (including VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 the East Pacific) populations of the green turtle (63 FR 28359, May 22, 1998). NMFS designated critical habitat for the species to include waters surrounding Culebra Island, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and its outlying keys (63 FR 46693, September 2, 1998). On February 16, 2012, the Services received a petition from the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to identify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS and ‘‘delist’’ the DPS under the ESA. On August 1, 2012, NMFS, with USFWS concurrence, determined that the petition presented substantial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted (77 FR 45571). Initiating a review of new information in accordance with the DPS policy was consistent with the recommendation made in the Services’ 2007 Green Sea Turtle 5-year Review. The Services initiated a status review to consider the species across its range, determine whether the petitioned action is warranted, and determine whether other DPSs could be recognized. The Services decided to review the Hawaiian population in the context of green turtles globally with regard to application of the DPS policy and in light of significant new information since the listing of the species in 1978. The Services appointed a Status Review Team (SRT) in September 2012. SRT members were affiliated with NMFS Science Centers and the Services’ field, regional, and headquarters offices, and provided a diverse range of expertise, including green turtle genetics, demography, ecology, and management, as well as risk analysis and ESA policy. The SRT was charged with reviewing and evaluating all relevant scientific information relating to green turtle population structure globally to determine whether any populations may qualify as DPSs and, if so, to assess the extinction risk for each proposed DPS. Findings of the SRT are detailed in the ‘‘Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Status Review under the U.S. Endangered Species Act’’ (hereinafter referred to as the Status Review; NMFS and USFWS, 2014). The Status Review underwent independent peer review by 14 scientists with expertise in green turtle biology, genetics, or related fields, and endangered species listing policy. The Status Review is available electronically at http:// www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/ green.htm. This Federal Register document announces the 12-month finding on the petition to identify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS and remove the protections of the ESA from the PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15275 DPS, and includes a proposed rule to revise the existing listings to identify 11 green turtle DPSs worldwide and list them as threatened or endangered under the ESA in place of the existing listings. Our determinations have been made only after review of the best available scientific and commercial information pertaining to the species throughout its range and within each DPS. This is similar to the action we took for loggerhead sea turtles (76 FR 58868, September 22, 2011). The ESA gives us clear authority to make these listing determinations and to revise the lists of endangered and threatened species to reflect these determinations. Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA authorizes us to determine by regulation whether ‘‘any species,’’ which is expressly defined to include species, subspecies, and DPS, is an endangered species or a threatened species based on certain factors. Review of the status of a species may be commenced at any time, either on the Services’ own initiative—through a status review or in connection with a 5-year review under Section 4(c)(2)—or in response to a petition. Because a DPS is not a scientifically recognized entity, but rather one that is created under the language of the ESA and effectuated through our DPS Policy (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), we have some discretion to determine whether the species should be reclassified into DPSs and what boundaries should be recognized for each DPS. Section 4(c)(1) gives us authority to update the lists of threatened and endangered species to reflect these determinations. This can include revising the lists to remove a species or reclassify the listed entity. II. Policies for Delineating Species Under the ESA Section 3 of the ESA defines ‘‘species’’ as including ‘‘any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.’’ The term ‘‘distinct population segment’’ is not recognized in the scientific literature. Therefore, the Services adopted a joint policy for recognizing DPSs under the ESA (DPS Policy; 61 FR 4722) on February 7, 1996. The DPS Policy requires the consideration of three elements when evaluating the status of possible DPSs: (1) The discreteness of the population segment in relation to the remainder of the species to which it belongs; (2) the significance of the population segment to the species to which it belongs; and (3) the population segment’s conservation status in relation to the E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15276 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 ESA’s standards for listing. This is discussed further in the Status Review, in the section entitled, ‘‘Overview of Information and Process Used to Identify DPSs.’’ III. Listing Determinations Under the ESA The ESA defines an endangered species as one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range (section 3(6)), and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range (section 3(20)). Thus, in the context of the ESA, the Services interpret an ‘‘endangered species’’ to be one that is presently in danger of extinction. A ‘‘threatened species,’’ on the other hand, is not presently in danger of extinction, but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future. In other words, the primary statutory difference between a threatened and endangered species is the timing of when a species may be in danger of extinction, either presently (endangered) or in the foreseeable future (threatened). When we consider whether a species might qualify as threatened under the ESA, we must consider the meaning of the term ‘‘foreseeable future.’’ It is appropriate to interpret ‘‘foreseeable future’’ as the horizon over which predictions about the conservation status of the species can be reasonably relied upon. The foreseeable future considers the life history of the species, habitat characteristics, availability of data, particular threats, ability to predict threats, and the reliability to forecast the effects of these threats and future events on the status of the species under consideration. Because a species may be susceptible to a variety of threats for which different data are available, or which operate across different time scales, the foreseeable future is not necessarily reducible to a particular number of years. For the green turtle, the SRT used a horizon of 100 years to evaluate the likelihood that a DPS would reach a critical risk threshold (i.e., quasi-extinction). In making the proposed listing determinations, we applied the horizon of 100 years in our consideration of foreseeable future under the scope of the definitions of endangered and threatened species, pursuant to section 3 of the ESA. The statute requires us to determine whether any species is endangered or threatened as a result of any one or combination of the following 5-factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence (section 4(a)(1)(A–E) of the ESA). Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA requires us to make this determination based solely on the best available scientific and commercial data available after conducting a review of the status of the species and taking into account any efforts being made by States or foreign governments to protect the species. IV. Biology and Life History of Green Turtles A thorough account of green turtle biology and life history may be found in the Status Review, which is incorporated here by reference. The following is a succinct summary of that information. The green turtle, C. mydas, has a circumglobal distribution, occurring throughout tropical, subtropical, and, to a lesser extent, temperate waters. Their movements within the marine environment are not fully understood, but it is believed that green turtles inhabit coastal waters of over 140 countries (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989). The Status Review lists 468 known nesting sites worldwide, with 79 having nesting aggregations with greater than 500 females. The largest green turtle nesting aggregation, with an estimated number of nesting females greater than 132,000, is Tortuguero, Costa Rica (Sea Turtle Conservancy, 2013). There are 14 aggregations estimated to have 10,001–100,000 nesting females: Quintana Roo, Mexico (Julio Zurita, pers. comm., 2012); Ascension Island, UK (S. Weber, Ascension Island Government, pers. ˜ comm., 2013); Poilao, Guinea-Bissau (Catry et al., 2009); Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles (Mortimer et al., 2011; Mortimer, 2012; J. Mortimer, unpubl. ´ data.); Moheli, Comoros Islands, France (Bourjea, 2012); Mayotte, Comoros Islands (Bourjea, 2012); Europa, Esparses Islands, France (Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012); Ras Al Hadd, Oman (AlKindi et al., 2008); Ras Sharma, Yemen (PERSGA/GEF, 2004); Wellesley Group, Australia (Unpubl. data cited in Limpus, 2009); Raine Island, Australia (Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Limpus, 2009); Moulter Cay, Australia (Limpus, 2009); Capricorn Bunker Group of Islands, Australia (Limpus et al., 2003); and Colola, Mexico (Delgado-Trejo and AlvaradoFigueroa, 2012). PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Most green turtles spend the majority of their lives in coastal foraging grounds. These areas include fairly shallow waters in open coastline and protected bays and lagoons. While in these areas, green turtles rely on marine algae and seagrass as their primary diet constituents, although some populations also forage heavily on invertebrates. These marine habitats are often highly dynamic and in areas with annual fluctuations in seawater and air temperatures, which can cause the distribution and abundance of potential green turtle food items to vary substantially between seasons and years (Carballo et al., 2002). At nesting beaches, green turtles rely on beaches characterized by intact dune structures, native vegetation, little to no artificial lighting, and 26 to 35° C beach temperatures for nesting (Limpus, 1971; Salmon et al., 1992; Ackerman, 1997; Witherington, 1997; Lorne and Salmon, 2007). Nests are typically laid at night at the base of the primary dune (Hirth, 1997; Witherington et al., 2006). Complete removal of vegetation, or coastal construction, can affect thermal regimes on beaches and thus affect the incubation and resulting sex ratio of hatchling turtles. Nests laid in these areas are at a higher risk of tidal inundation (Schroeder and Mosier, 2000). Hatchlings emerge from their nests en masse and almost exclusively at night, presumably using decreasing sand temperature as a cue (Hendrickson, 1958; Mrosovsky, 1968). Immediately after hatchlings emerge from the nest, they begin a period of frenzied activity. During this active period, hatchlings crawl to the surf, swim, and are swept through the surf zone (Carr and Ogren, 1960; Carr, 1961; Wyneken and Salmon, 1992). They orient to waves in the nearshore area and to the magnetic field as they proceed further toward open water (Lohmann and Lohmann, 2003). Upon leaving the nesting beach and entering the marine environment, posthatchling green turtles begin an oceanic juvenile phase during which they are presumed to primarily inhabit areas where surface waters converge to form local downwellings that result in linear accumulations of floating material, especially Sargassum sp. This association with downwellings is welldocumented for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), as well as for some post-hatchling green turtles (Witherington et al., 2006; 2012). The smallest of oceanic green turtles associating with these areas are relatively active, moving both within Sargassum sp. mats and in nearby open water, which may limit the ability of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules researchers to detect their presence as compared to relatively immobile loggerheads of the same life stage that associate with similar habitat (Smith and Salmon, 2009; Witherington et al., 2012). Oceanic-stage juvenile green turtles originating from nesting beaches in the Northwest Atlantic appear to use oceanic developmental habitats and move with the predominant ocean gyres for several years before returning to their neritic (shallower water, generally to 200 m depth, including open coastline and protected bays and lagoons) foraging and developmental habitats (Musick and Limpus, 1997; Bolten, 2003). Larger neonate green turtles (at least 15–26 cm straight carapace length; SCL) are known to occupy Sargassum sp. habitats and surrounding epipelagic waters, where food items include Sargassum sp. and associated invertebrates, fish eggs, and insects (Witherington et al., 2012). Knowledge of the diet and behavior of oceanic stage juveniles, however, is limited. The neritic juvenile stage begins when green turtles exit the oceanic zone and enter the neritic zone (Bolten, 2003). The age at recruitment to the neritic zone likely varies with individuals leaving the oceanic zone over a wide size range (summarized in Avens and Snover, 2013). After migrating to the neritic zone, juveniles continue maturing until they reach adulthood, and some may periodically move between the neritic and oceanic zones (NMFS and USFWS, 2007; Parker et al., 2011). The neritic zone, including both open coastline and protected bays and lagoons, provides important foraging habitat, inter-nesting habitat, breeding, and migratory habitat for adult green turtles (Plotkin, 2003; NMFS and USFWS, 2007). Some adult females may also periodically move between the neritic and oceanic zones (Plotkin, 2003; Hatase et al., 2006) and, in some instances, adult green turtles may reside in the oceanic zone for foraging (NMFS and USFWS, 2007; Seminoff et al., 2008; Parker et al., 2011). Despite these uses of the oceanic zone by green turtles, much remains unknown about how oceanography affects juvenile and adult survival, adult migration, prey availability, and reproductive output. Most green turtles exhibit slow growth rates, which has been described as a consequence of their largely herbivorous (i.e., low net energy) diet (Bjorndal, 1982). Consistent with slow growth, age-to-maturity for green turtles appears to be the longest of any sea turtle species (Chaloupka and Musick, 1997; Hirth, 1997). Published age at VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 sexual maturity estimates are as high as 35–50 years, with lower ranges reported for known age turtles from the Cayman Islands (15–19 years; Bell et al., 2005) and Caribbean Mexico (12–20 years; Zurita et al., 2012) and some markrecapture projects (e.g., 15–25 years in the Eastern Pacific; Seminoff et al., 2002a). Mean adult reproductive lifespan of green turtles from Australia’s southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has been estimated at 19 years using markrecapture and survival data (Chaloupka and Limpus, 2005). The maximum nesting lifespan observed in a 27-year tag return dataset from Trindade Island, Brazil was 16 years; however, nesting monitoring was discontinuous over time (Almeida et al., 2011). Tag return data comprising 2,077 females (42,928 nesting events, 1968-partial 2012 season) from continuous monitoring at French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Hawai‘i show maximum nesting lifespans of 37– 38 years (n=2), with many individuals (n=54) documented nesting over a minimum of 25–35 years (I. NurziaHumburg, S. Hargrove, and G. Balazs, NMFS, unpublished data, 2013). V. Overview of the Policies and Process Used To Identify DPSs The SRT considered a vast array of information in assessing whether there are any green turtle population segments that satisfy the DPS criteria of being both discrete and significant. In anticipation of conducting a green turtle status review, NMFS contracted two post-doctoral associates in 2011 to collect and synthesize genetic and demographic information on green turtles worldwide. The SRT was presented with, and evaluated, this genetic and demographic information. Demographic information included green turtle nesting information; morphological and behavioral data; movements, as indicated by tagging (flipper and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags) and satellite telemetry data; and anthropogenic impacts. Also discussed and considered as a part of this analysis were oceanographic features and geographic barriers. A population may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one of the following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors; or (2) it is delimited by international governmental boundaries within which differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15277 of the ESA (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996). According to the policy, quantitative measures of genetic or morphological discontinuity can be used to provide evidence for item (1). The SRT compiled a list of attributes that suggested various population groups might be considered discrete, identified potentially discrete units, and discussed alternative scenarios for lumping or splitting these potentially discrete units. After arriving at a tentative list of units, each member of the SRT was given 100 points that could be distributed among two categories: (1) The unit under consideration is discrete, and (2) the unit under consideration is not discrete. The spread of points reflects the level of certainty of the SRT surrounding a decision to call the unit discrete. The SRT determined that there are 11 discrete regional populations of green turtles globally. Each of these was then evaluated for significance. A population may be considered significant if it satisfies any one of the following conditions: (1) Persistence of the discrete segment in an ecological setting unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the discrete segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (3) evidence that the discrete segment represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historical range; and (4) evidence that the discrete segment differs markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics. Because condition (3) is not applicable to green turtles, the SRT addressed conditions (1), (2) and (4). The SRT listed the attributes that would make potential DPSs (those determined to be discrete in the previous step) significant. As in the vote for discreteness, members of the SRT were then given 100 points with which to vote for whether each unit met the significance criterion in the joint policy. All units that had been identified as discrete were also determined to be significant. For more discussion on the process the SRT used to identify DPSs, see Section 3 of the Status Review document. A. Discreteness Determination In evaluating discreteness among the global green turtle population, the SRT began by focusing on the physical separation of ocean basins (i.e., Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans). The result was an evaluation of data by major ocean basins, although it quickly became clear that the Indian and Pacific E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15278 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Ocean populations overlapped. The evaluation by ocean basin was not to preclude any larger or smaller DPS delineation, but to aid in data organization and assessment. We organized this section by ocean basin to explain the discreteness determination process and results. Within each ocean basin, the SRT started by evaluating genetic information. The genetic data consisted of results from studies using maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), biparentally inherited nuclear DNA (nDNA) microsatellite (a section of DNA consisting of very short nucleotide sequences repeated many times), and single nucleotide polymorphism (a DNA sequence variation occurring commonly within a population) markers. Next, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 SRT reviewed tagging, telemetry and demographic data, and additional information such as potential differences in morphology. The SRT also considered whether the available information suggests that green turtle population segments are separated by vicariant barriers, such as oceanographic features (e.g., current systems), or biogeographic boundaries. Genetic information that was presented to the SRT resulted from a global phylogenetic analysis (analysis based on natural evolutionary relationships) based on sequence data from a total of 129 mtDNA haplotypes (i.e., mtDNA sequences, which are inherited together) identified from approximately 4,400 individuals sampled at 105 green turtle nesting sites PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 around the world (Jensen and Dutton, NMFS, unpublished data; M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013). Results indicated that the mtDNA variation present in green turtles throughout the world today occurs within eight major clades (i.e., a group consisting of an ancestor and all its descendants) that are structured geographically within ocean basins. These clades represent similarities between haplotypes on evolutionary timescales as opposed to ecological timescales. See Figure 1 for a visual representation of these clades. There is divergence among individual haplotypes within each green turtle clade (M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013) and discrete populations can exist within these clades. BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 BILLING CODE 3510–22–C mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 1. Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean Sea Two of the eight major mtDNA clades, Clades I and II, are found in the Atlantic/Mediterranean region. Clade I includes haplotypes primarily found in turtles from the Mediterranean and the western North Atlantic. Within Clade I, two strongly divergent groups of haplotypes are found, with one group being restricted to the Mediterranean and the other being restricted to the western North Atlantic. Mediterranean and western North Atlantic turtles share only one specific haplotype that has VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 been found in only two individuals, indicating very strong long-term isolation of females. As such, there is strong evidence that these two geographically-separated groups of divergent haplotypes may be considered discrete. In addition to genetic evidence for discreteness, in the Mediterranean, green turtles are spatially separated from populations in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, with the nearest known nesting sites outside the Mediterranean being several thousand kilometers away in the Republic of Senegal (Senegal), and the North Atlantic population being PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15279 more than 8,000 km away. Further, no turtles tagged in the eastern Mediterranean have been recovered farther west than the Tunisian Republic (Tunisia) inside the Mediterranean. Nesting females from Cyprus, Turkey, the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), and the State of Israel (Israel) have been satellite tracked to the Arab Republic of Egypt (Egypt), Libya, and Turkey—with movements largely restricted to the eastern Mediterranean (Godley et al., 2002; Broderick et al., 2007). Postnesting turtles from this region migrate primarily along the coast from their nesting beach to their foraging and E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 EP23mr15.000</GPH> Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15280 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules overwintering grounds in the Mediterranean (Godley et al., 2002; Broderick et al., 2007). Demographic evidence of discreteness of Mediterranean green turtles lies in the fact that Mediterranean green turtles are the second smallest green turtles worldwide (the smallest being in the eastern Pacific), with a mean nesting size in Alagadi, Cyprus of 92 cm Curved Carapace Length (CCL; Broderick et al., 2003), compared with 95 cm to 110 cm CCL size range for most other populations. In the North Atlantic, tag recovery and telemetry data indicate that nesting females primarily reside within the North Atlantic. Some nesting females tagged at Tortuguero, Costa Rica were recaptured in the South Atlantic ¨ (Troeng et al., 2005). There is some degree of mixing of immature turtles on foraging pastures between the North and South Atlantic; however, nesting sites in the eastern Caribbean carry mostly mtDNA haplotypes from a different clade (II), indicating strong long-term isolation. Tagging studies have identified juveniles from this population in waters off Brazil and Argentina, but we found no evidence of movement of mature individuals. The second clade within the Atlantic Ocean basin, Clade II, includes haplotypes found in all South Atlantic nesting sites, some eastern Caribbean turtles, and some turtles in the southwest Indian Ocean. With a few exceptions, green turtles in the South Atlantic carry an mtDNA haplotype that is found nowhere else, indicating strong isolation of matrilines over evolutionary time periods. The exceptions to this pattern are: (1) One nesting site from the eastern Caribbean, which exhibits a low frequency of a haplotype from the North Atlantic/Mediterranean clade (Clade I); (2) nesting sites from the Gulf of Mexico/Central America, which have a low frequency of Clade II haplotypes; and (3) two nesting sites from southeast Africa, which have high frequencies of Clade II haplotypes. The presence of a shared haplotype in South Atlantic and southwest Indian Ocean rookeries demonstrates for the first time a recent matrilineal link between Atlantic and Indian Ocean green turtle populations (Bourjea et al., 2007b). However, the SRT believes all these exceptions reflect historical events rather than contemporary connectivity. This interpretation is supported by satellite telemetry, which reveals extensive movements of turtles within the South Atlantic region but no evidence for migrations into other areas, other than rare instances of movement into foraging areas in the North Atlantic. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Long stretches of cold water along the coasts of Patagonia and southwest Africa serve to isolate South Atlantic turtles from populations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Foraging ground studies in the Atlantic have generally shown regional structuring with strong stock contribution from nearby regional nesting sites, but little mixing over long distances (Bolker et al., 2007). Overall, the distribution of the two genetic haplotype lineages (Clade I and Clade II) is very similar to what is seen for the nesting sites and indicates a strong regional structuring with little overlap (Bolker et al., 2007). However, a recent study showed that a large proportion of juvenile green turtles in the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic originated from distant nesting sites across the Atlantic, namely Suriname (38 percent), Ascension Island (12 percent) and Guinea Bissau (19 percent), suggesting that, like loggerheads, green turtles in the Atlantic undertake transoceanic developmental migrations ´ ¨ (Monzon-Arguello et al., 2010). The fact that long distance dispersal is only seen for juvenile turtles suggests that larger adult-sized turtles return to forage within the region of their natal nesting sites, thereby limiting the potential for ´ gene-flow across larger scales (Monzon¨ Arguello et al., 2010). In the South Atlantic, flipper tag recoveries have established movement between feeding grounds and nesting sites in the Caribbean and Brazil (Lima et al., 2003; Lima et al., 2008; Lima et al., 2012), and telemetry data indicate that juvenile green turtles move from Argentina to Uruguay and Brazil, from Uruguay to Brazil, and from the Guianas to Brazil. Telemetry studies indicate that nesting females from the eastern South Atlantic (west coast of Africa) are confined to the eastern South Atlantic, and nesting females from the western South Atlantic are confined to the western South Atlantic. In the eastern South Atlantic, all tracked turtles remained in the general vicinity of their release location. Nesting females from Ascension Island were tracked to foraging grounds along the coast of Brazil. Finally, demographic evidence for discreteness of South Atlantic green turtles lies in the fact that the South Atlantic is home to the largest green turtles in the world, with a mean nesting size of green turtles at Atol das Rocas, Brazil of 118.6 cm CCL (n=738), compared with 95 cm to 110 cm CCL size range for most other populations. Based on the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we concur, that three discrete populations PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 exist in the Atlantic Ocean/ Mediterranean: (1) North Atlantic, (2) Mediterranean, and (3) South Atlantic. These three populations are markedly separated from each other and from populations within the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean basins as a consequence of physical (including both oceanographic basins and currents), ecological, and behavioral factors. Information supporting this conclusion includes genetic analysis, flipper tag recoveries, and satellite telemetry. 2. Indian Ocean Green turtles from the Indian Ocean exhibit haplotypes from Clades II, III, IV, VI, and VII. In the southwest Indian Ocean, Bourjea et al. (2007b) genetically assessed the population structure among 288 nesting green turtles from 10 nesting sites. Overall, the southwest Indian Ocean appears to have at least two genetic stocks: (1) The South Mozambique Channel (Juan de Nova and Europa); and (2) the North Mozambique Channel. As stated earlier, the authors recorded a high presence of a common and widespread South Atlantic Ocean haplotype (CM–A8) in the South Mozambique Channel. However, the observation that only a single Atlantic haplotype has been observed and that it occurs in high frequency among South Mozambique Channel rookeries suggests that gene flow is not ongoing (Bourjea et al., 2007b). Nesting sites in the North Mozambique Channel share several haplotypes (including CmP47 and CmP49) with nesting sites in the eastern Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, indicating strongconnectivity with the eastern Indian Ocean population. However, tagging and tracking data document movements within the Southwest Indian Ocean but not between it and the eastern Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Although there is some evidence of transboundary movement between the southwest Indian Ocean and the population in the North Indian Ocean, evidence from tag returns indicates that most remain in the southwest Indian Ocean. Indeed, some green turtles in Tanzania are probably resident, and others are highly migratory, moving to and from nesting and feeding grounds within the southwest Indian Ocean in Kenya, Seychelles, Comoros, Mayotte, Europa Island and South Africa (Muir, 2005). From 2009 to 2011, 90 satellite transmitters deployed on nesting green turtles at five nesting sites in the southwest Indian Ocean showed that nearly 20 percent of the tracked turtles used Madagascar coastal foraging grounds while more than 80 percent E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules used the east African coasts, including waters off north Mozambique and south Tanzania. The SRT determined that spatial separation between the southwest Indian Ocean and other IndoPacific populations, as well as an apparent nesting gap, the lack of transboundary recoveries in tagging, and localized telemetry, indicate discreteness from other populations in the Indo-Pacific. In the North Indian Ocean, limited information from only a single nesting site (Jana Island, Saudi Arabia, n=27) exists on the genetic structure (M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013). Nonetheless, four mtDNA haplotypes never reported from any other nesting site were identified from Jana Island, and are highly divergent from other haplotypes in the Indian Ocean. This population also appears to be isolated from other Indian populations by substantial breaks in nesting habitat along the Horn of Africa and along the entire eastern side of the Indian subcontinent. Tagging of turtles on nesting beaches of the North Indian Ocean started in the late 1970s and indicates that some turtles in the North Indian Ocean migrate long distances from distant feeding grounds to nesting beaches while others are quite sedentary, but all stay within the North Indian Ocean. Tagging studies have revealed that some turtles nesting on Ras Al Hadd and Masirah, Oman can be found as far away as Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the upper Gulf, and Pakistan (Ross, 1987; Salm, 1991), and a green turtle tagged in Oman was found in the Maldives (Al-Saady et al., 2005). No tagging has been carried out on feeding grounds (Al-Saady et al., 2005). A few green turtles in the North Indian Ocean have been fitted with satellite transmitters and reported at www.seaturtle.org, but no data have been published. One telemetered female green turtle remained in the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf for 49 days (N. Pilcher, Marine Research Foundation, pers. comm., 2013), and two nesting turtles were telemetered at Masirah Island, Oman, both of which moved southward along the Arabian Peninsula and were found in the Red Sea when the transmissions ceased (Rees et al. 2012). Telemetry data for captive-hatched and reared green turtles at Republic of Maldives (Vabbinfaru Island, Male Atoll) have indicated wide movement patterns within the Indian Ocean (N. Pilcher, Marine Research Foundation, pers. comm., 2013). In the eastern Indian Ocean, turtles mix readily with those in the western Pacific. Genetic sampling in the eastern VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Indian and western Pacific Ocean regions has been fairly extensive with more than 22 nesting sites sampled although, because there are a high number of nesting sites in this region and there is complex structure, there remain gaps in sampling relative to distribution (e.g., Thailand, Vietnam, parts of Indonesia, and the Philippines). Most nesting sites are dominated by haplotypes from Clade VII, but with some overlap of Clades III and IV throughout the Indian Ocean—evidence of a complex colonization history in this region. While one common haplotype is shared across the Indian Ocean, substantial gaps in nesting sites along the east coast of India and in the southern Indian Ocean serve to isolate the eastern Indian-western Pacific population from those in the north and southwest Indian Ocean. The Wallace Line (a boundary drawn in 1859 by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that separates the highly distinctive faunas of the Asian and Australian biogeographic regions) and its northern extension separate this population from populations to the east, which carry haplotypes primarily from Clade IV. Nesting sites to the northern extreme (Taiwan and Japan) show more complex patterns of higher mixing of divergent haplotypes, and the placement of individual nesting sites within this area is somewhat uncertain and may become better resolved when additional genetic data are available. Significant population substructuring occurs among nesting sites in this area. Mixed-stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that green turtles from multiple nesting beaches commonly mix at feeding areas across northern Australia (Dethmers et al., 2006) and Malaysia (Jensen, 2010), with higher contributions from nearby large nesting sites. Satellite tracking also shows green turtle movement throughout the eastern Indian and western Pacific (Cheng, 2000; Dermawan, 2002; Charuchinda et al., 2003; Wang, 2006). Given the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we concur, that three discrete populations exist in the Indian Ocean, with the third overlapping with the Pacific: (1) Southwest Indian, (2) North Indian, and (3) East Indian-West Pacific. These three populations are markedly separated from each other and from populations within the Atlantic Ocean as a consequence of physical, ecological, and behavioral factors. Information supporting this conclusion includes genetic analysis, flipper tag recoveries, and satellite telemetry. PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15281 3. Pacific Ocean The central west Pacific encompasses most of the area commonly referred to as Micronesia as well as parts of Melanesia. Genetic sampling in the central west Pacific has recently improved, but remains challenging, given the large number of small island and atoll nesting sites. At least five management units have been identified in the region (Palau, Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Yap, CNMI/Guam, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marshall Islands); Dethmers et al., 2006; M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013; Dutton et al., 2014). The central west Pacific carries haplotypes from Clade IV, while the populations to the west carry haplotypes predominantly from Clade VII, so any mixing presumably reflects foraging migrations rather than interbreeding. The boundary between the central west Pacific and the East Indian-West Pacific populations is congruent with the northern portion of the Wallace Line. Wide expanses of open ocean separate the central west Pacific from the central north Pacific, and genetic data provide no evidence of gene flow between the central west Pacific and the central north Pacific over evolutionary time scales. Tagging studies also have not found evidence for migration of breeding adults to or from adjacent populations. In the southwest Pacific, genetic sampling has been extensive for larger nesting sites along the GBR, the Coral Sea and New Caledonia (Dethmers et al., 2006; Jensen, 2010; Dutton et al., 2014). However, several smaller nesting sites in this region have not been sampled (e.g., Solomon Islands, Republic of Vanuatu (Vanuatu), Tuvalu, PNG, etc.). The southwest Pacific population is characterized by haplotypes from Clade V, which have been found only at nesting sites in this population. It also has a high frequency of haplotypes from Clades III and IV, as well as low frequency of haplotypes from Clades VI and VII, making this area highly diverse (haplotypes from the widespread Clade IV differ from those found in the central west and central south Pacific). Traditional capture-mark-recapture studies (Limpus, 2009) and genetic mixed-stock analysis (Jensen, 2010) show that turtles from several different southwest Pacific nesting sites overlap on feeding grounds along the east coast of Australia. This mixing in foraging areas might provide mating opportunities between turtles from different stocks as evidenced by the lack of differentiation found between the northern and southern GBR nesting sites E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15282 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules for nuclear DNA (FitzSimmons et al., 1997). However, tagging, telemetry, and genetic studies show movement of breeding adults occurs mainly within the southwest Pacific. In the central South Pacific, genetic sampling has been limited to two nesting sites (American Samoa and French Polynesia) among the many small isolated nesting sites that characterize this region, but they both contain relatively high frequencies of Clade III haplotypes, which are not found in the central west and southwest Pacific populations. Nesting sites from this area share some haplotypes with surrounding nesting sites, but at low frequency. There are also limited data on mixed-stock foraging areas from this region. Flipper tag returns and satellite tracking studies demonstrate that postnesting females travel the complete geographic breadth of this population, from French Polynesia in the east to Fiji in the west, and sometimes even slightly beyond (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et al., 2004; Maison et al., 2010; White, 2012), as far as the Philippines (Trevor, 2009). The complete extent of migratory movements is unknown. The central South Pacific is isolated by vast expanses of open ocean from turtle populations to the north (Hawai‘i) and east (Galapagos), and in both of these areas all turtle haplotypes are from an entirely different clade (Clade VIII), indicating lack of genetic exchange across these barriers. The central North Pacific, which includes the Hawaiian Archipelago and Johnston Atoll, is inhabited by green turtles that are geographically discrete in their genetic characteristics, range, and movements, as evidenced by genetic studies and mark-recapture studies using flipper tags, microchip tags, and satellite telemetry. The key nesting aggregations within the Hawaiian Archipelago have all been genetically sampled. Mitochondrial DNA studies show no significant differentiation (based on haplotype frequency) between FFS and Laysan Island (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). While the Hawaiian Islands do share haplotypes with Revillagigedos Islands (CmP1.1 and CmP3.1) at low frequency, the populations remain highly differentiated, and there is little evidence of significant ongoing gene flow. The Frey et al. (2013) analysis of mtDNA and nDNA in scattered nesting sites on the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI; Molokai, Maui, Oahu, Lanai, and Kauai) showed that nesting in the MHI might be attributed to a relatively small number of females that appear to be related to each other and demographically isolated from FFS. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Turtles foraging in the MHI originate from Hawaiian nesting sites, with very rare records of turtles from outside the central North Pacific (Dutton et al., 2008), and there is a general absence of turtles from the Hawaiian breeding population at foraging areas outside the central North Pacific. From 1965–2013, 17,536 green turtles (juvenile through adult stages) were tagged. With only three exceptions, the 7,360 recaptures of these tagged turtles have been within the Hawaiian Archipelago. The three outliers involved recoveries in Japan, the Marshall Islands, and the Philippines (G. Balazs, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). Information from tagging at FFS, areas in the MHI, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) to the northwest of FFS, and at Johnston Atoll shows that reproductive females and males periodically migrate to FFS for seasonal breeding from the other locations. At the end of the season they return to their respective foraging areas. The reproductive migrations of 19 satellite tracked green turtles (16 females and 3 males) all involved movements between FFS and the MHI. Conventional tagging using microchips and metal flipper tags has resulted in the documentation of 164 turtles making reproductive movements from or to FFS and foraging pastures in the MHI, and 58 turtles from or to FFS and the foraging pastures in the NWHI (G. Balazs, NMFS, unpubl. data). Hawaiian green turtles also exhibit morphological features that may make them discrete from other populations, possibly reflecting genetic as well as ecological adaptations. In the Hawai‘i population, and in Australian populations, green turtles have a welldeveloped crop, which has not been found in Caribbean or eastern Pacific populations of green turtles (Balazs et al., 1998; J. Seminoff, NMFS, unpubl. data). In addition, juvenile green turtles in Hawai‘i have proportionally larger rear flippers than those in the western Caribbean (Wyneken and Balazs, 1996; Balazs et al., 1998). These anatomical differences may reflect adaptive variation to different environmental conditions. A crop that holds food material in the esophagus would permit more food to be ingested during each foraging event in a more dynamic feeding environment, which is helpful along wind-swept rugged coastlines where large waves crash ashore. Larger flippers would also aid in making them stronger swimmers in this feeding environment, and during reproductive migrations across rough pelagic waters, as opposed to calmer coastal waters (Balazs et al., 1998). PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 The central North Pacific population and those in the central South Pacific and central west Pacific appear to be separated by large oceanic areas, and the central North Pacific and the eastern Pacific populations are separated by the East Pacific Barrier, an oceanographic barrier that greatly restricts or eliminates gene flow for most marine species from a wide range of taxa (Briggs, 1974). In the eastern Pacific, genetic sampling has been extensive and the coverage in this region is substantial, considering the relatively small population sizes of most eastern Pacific nesting sites, which include both mainland and insular nesting. This sampling indicates complete isolation of nesting females between the eastern and western Pacific nesting sites. Recent efforts to determine the nesting stock origins of green turtles assembled in foraging areas have found that green turtles from several eastern Pacific nesting stocks commonly mix at feeding areas in the Gulf of California and along the Pacific coast in San Diego Bay, U.S. (Nichols, 2003; P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data). In addition, green turtles of eastern Pacific origin have been found, albeit very rarely, in waters off Hawai‘i (LeRoux et al., 2003; Dutton et al., 2008), Japan (Kuroyanagi et al., 1999; Hamabata et al., 2009), and New Zealand (Godoy et al., 2012). A recent study of juvenile green turtles foraging at Gorgona Island in the Republic of Colombia indicated a small number (5 percent) of turtles with the haplotype CmP22, which was recently discovered to be common in nesting green turtles from the Marshall Islands and American Samoa (Dutton et al., 2014). This shows that, despite the isolation of nesting females between the eastern and western Pacific, a small number of immature turtles successfully cross the Pacific during developmental migrations in both directions. However, it is important to point out that there is no evidence of mature turtles inhabiting foraging or nesting habitat across the Pacific from their region of origin. Recent nDNA studies provide insights that are consistent with patterns of differentiation found with mtDNA in the eastern Pacific. Roden et al. (2013) found significant differentiation between FFS and two eastern Pacific ´ populations (the Galapagos Islands, ´ Ecuador and Michoacan, Mexico) and greater connectivity between Galapagos ´ and Michoacan than between FFS and either of the eastern Pacific nesting sites. Flipper tagging and satellite telemetry data show that dispersal and reproductive migratory movements of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules green turtles originating from the eastern Pacific region are generally confined to that region. Long-term ´ flipper tagging programs at Michoacan ´ (Alvarado-Dıaz and Figueroa, 1992) and ´ in the Galapagos Islands (Green, 1984; P. Zarate, University of Florida, pers. comm., 2012) produced 94 tag returns from foraging areas throughout the eastern Pacific (e.g., Seminoff et al., 2002b). There were two apparent groupings, with tags attached to turtles ´ nesting in the Galapagos largely recovered along the shores from Costa Rica to Chile in the southeastern Pacific, and long-distance tag returns from the ´ Michoacan nesting site primarily from foraging areas in Mexico to Nicaragua. However, there was a small degree of overlap between these two regions, as at ´ least one Michoacan tag was recovered ´ as far south as Colombia (Alvarado-Dıaz and Figueroa, 1992). Satellite telemetry efforts with green turtles in the region have shown similar results to those for flipper tag recoveries. A total of 23 long-distance satellite tracks were considered for the Status Review (Seminoff, 2000; Nichols, 2003; Seminoff et al., 2008). Satellite data show that turtles tracked in northeastern Mexico (Nichols, 2003; J. Nichols, California Academy of Sciences, unpubl. data) and California (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2010) all stayed within the region, whereas turtles tracked from nesting beaches in ´ the Galapagos Islands all remained in waters off Central America and the broader southeastern Pacific Ocean (Seminoff et al., 2008). Demographic evidence of discreteness is also found in morphological differences between green turtles in the eastern Pacific and those found elsewhere. The smallest green turtles worldwide are found in the eastern Pacific, where mean nesting size is 82.0 ´ cm CCL in Michoacan, Mexico (n=718, ´ (Alvarado-Dıaz and Figueroa, 1992) and ´ 86.7 cm CCL in the Galapagos (n=2708; ´ (Zarate et al., 2003), compared to the 95 cm to 110 cm CCL size range for most green turtles. In addition, Kamezaki and Matsui (1995) found differences in skull morphology among green turtle populations on a broad global scale when analyzing specimens representing west and east Pacific (Japan and ´ Galapagos), Indian Ocean (Comoros and Seychelles), and Caribbean (Costa Rica and Guyana) populations. The eastern Pacific was different from others based on discriminant function analysis (used to discriminate between two or more naturally occurring groups). Given the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we concur, that there are five discrete VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 populations entirely within the Pacific Ocean: (1) Central West Pacific, (2) Southwest Pacific, (3) Central South Pacific, (4) Central North Pacific, and (5) East Pacific. These five populations are markedly separated from each other and from populations within the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Oceans as a consequence of physical, ecological, behavioral, and oceanographic factors. Information supporting this conclusion includes genetic analysis, flipper tag recoveries, and satellite telemetry. Collectively, all observations above led the SRT to propose that green turtles from the following geographic areas might be considered ‘‘discrete’’ according to criteria in the joint DPS policy: (1) North Atlantic Ocean (2) Mediterranean Sea (3) South Atlantic Ocean (4) Southwest Indian Ocean (5) North Indian Ocean (6) East Indian Ocean-West Pacific Ocean (7) Central West Pacific Ocean (8) Southwest Pacific Ocean (9) Central South Pacific Ocean (10) Central North Pacific Ocean (11) East Pacific Ocean B. Significance Determination In accordance with the DPS Policy, the SRT next reviewed whether the population segments identified in the discreteness analysis were biologically and ecologically significant to the taxon to which they belong, which is the taxonomic species C. mydas. Data relevant to the significance question include ecological, behavioral, genetic and morphological data. The SRT considered the following factors, listed in the DPS Policy, in determining whether the discrete population segments were significant: (1) Evidence that loss of the discrete segment would result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (2) evidence that the discrete segment differs markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic characteristics; and (3) persistence of the discrete segment in an unusual or unique ecological setting. The DPS policy also allows for consideration of other factors if they are appropriate to the biology or ecology of the species, such as unique morphological or demographic characteristics, and unique movement patterns. 1. North Atlantic Green turtles in the North Atlantic differ markedly in their genetic characteristics from other regional populations. They are strongly divergent from the Mediterranean population (the PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15283 only other population within Clade I), and turtles from adjacent populations in the eastern Caribbean carry haplotypes from a different clade. The North Atlantic population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. The green turtles within the North Atlantic population occupy a large portion of one of the major ocean basins in the world; therefore, the loss of this segment would represent a significant gap in the global range of green turtles. Green turtles take advantage of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to nest in North Carolina at 34° N., which is farther from the equator than any other nesting sites outside the Mediterranean Sea. Tagging and telemetry studies show that the North Atlantic green turtle population has minimal mixing with populations in the South Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. The mean size of nesting females in the North Atlantic, which could reflect the ecological setting and/or be genetically based, is larger (average 101.7–109.3 cm CCL; ´ ´ (Guzman-Hernandez, 2001, 2006) than those in the adjacent Mediterranean Sea (average 88–96 cm CCL), and smaller than those at varying locations in the South Atlantic, such as those at Isla Trindade, Brazil (average 115.2 cm CCL; Hirth, 1997; Almeida et al., 2011), Atol das Rocas, Brazil (112.9–118.6 cm CCL; Hirth, 1997; Bellini et al., 2013), and Ascension Island (average 116.8 cm CCL; Hirth, 1997). Another factor indicating uniqueness of the North Atlantic population is a typical 2-year remigration interval, as compared to 3-year or longer intervals that are more common elsewhere (Witherington et al., 2006). 2. Mediterranean Mediterranean turtles differ markedly in their genetic characteristics from other regional populations, with globally unique haplotypes and strong divergence from the other population within Clade I (the North Atlantic population). Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. Given this genetic distinctiveness and the distinctive environmental conditions, it is likely that turtles from the eastern Mediterranean have developed local adaptations that help them persist in this area. Mediterranean females are smaller than those in any other regional population except the Eastern Pacific, averaging 92.0 cm CCL (Broderick et al., 2003) compared to the global average of 95 cm–110 cm CCL. The loss of the population would result in a significant gap in the range E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15284 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 of the taxon. The population encompasses a large region, separated from other regional populations by large expanses of ocean, and with an apparent biogeographic boundary formed by the western Mediterranean. Finally, the Mediterranean Sea appears to be a unique ecological setting for the species. It is the most saline marine water basin in the world (38 parts per thousand (ppt) or higher), is nearly enclosed, and is outside the normal latitudinal range for the species, being the farthest from the equator of any green turtle population. Although similar information is not available for green turtles, it has been postulated that the high salinity of sea water in the Mediterranean acts as a ‘‘barrier’’ preventing loggerhead sea turtles from moving among the areas of the Western Mediterranean, explaining why they do not mix between the north and south Mediterranean as juveniles (Revelles et al., 2008). All nesting sites within the Mediterranean are between latitudes 31–40° N., which not only affects temperature but results in more seasonal variation in day length and environmental conditions, which may have fostered local adaptations in green turtles living there. 3. South Atlantic The South Atlantic population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. The South Atlantic population contains the only nesting site in the world associated with a midocean ridge. This unique ecological setting at Ascension Island, one of the largest nesting sites within this population, ensures diverse nesting habitats and promotes resilience for the species. This population spans an entire hemispheric ocean basin, and its loss would result in a gap of at least 12,000 km between populations off southeast Africa and those in Florida, clearly a significant gap in the range of the taxon. Brazil and Guinea Bissau may have acted as a refuge for Atlantic green turtles during the Pleistocene period (Reece et al., 2005). The average size of nesting females is larger here than in any other populations, ranging from 112.9–118.6 cm CCL (Hirth, 1997; Almeida et al., 2011) compared to 95– 110 cm CCL worldwide, which could reflect an adaptation to local environmental conditions such as habitat, availability of food, water temperature, and population dynamics. 4. Southwest Indian Within the Southwest Indian Ocean, strong upwelling in the Mozambique VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Channel produces distinctive areas of high productivity that support a robust turtle population, and complex current patterns in the area create a distinctive ecological setting for green turtles. Madagascar is one of the largest islands in the world and its proximity to the African coast, along with a proliferation of nearby islands, creates a complex series of habitats suitable for green turtles. Loss of this population would leave a gap of over 10,000 km between populations in southern India and those in west-central Africa. Nesting turtles from this population are the largest within the Indian Ocean, ranging from 103 cm (SCL)–112.3 cm (CCL) (Frazier, 1971; 1985) which could reflect growth due to presence of a network of foraging areas and localize migratory movements. 5. North Indian The ecological setting for this region is unique for green turtles in that it contains some of the warmest and highly saline waters in the world, indicative of the partially enclosed marine habitats within this system. The salinity in the North Indian Ocean varies from 32 to 37 ppt comparable only to the Mediterranean Sea. Salinity in this region varies with local and seasonal differences particularly in the Arabian Sea (dense, high-salinity) and the Bay of Bengal (low-salinity). Although genetic data are very limited for this population, with the only sample being from the Persian Gulf, it has two groups of highly divergent haplotypes that are not found anywhere else in the world (i.e., markedly different genetic characteristics). The loss of this population, and its globally unique haplotypes, which are not found in any other population, would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. This population is isolated from other Indian Ocean populations which would render its loss a significant gap in the range of the species. Nesting turtles are smaller here than in other Indian Ocean regions, possibly reflecting genetic adaptations to local environmental conditions. 6. East Indian-West Pacific This area of complex habitats at the confluence of the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans is a well-known hotspot for speciation and diversification of both terrestrial and marine taxa. It is unique in that it contains the most extensive continental shelf globally, and particularly low salinity waters in the northeastern Indian Ocean. Loss of green turtles from this vast area would create a substantial gap in the global distribution and, because this PO 00000 Frm 00014 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 population is located at the center of the species’ range, would strongly affect connectivity within the species as a whole. Connectivity is important for the maintenance of genetic diversity and resilience of the species. Genetic data indicate the presence of ancestral haplotypes with significant mtDNA diversity. The loss of this population, and its ancestral haplotypes, would represent a significant genetic loss to the species. The wide size range of nesting females within this population (82.1 cm–105.6 cm; Charuchinda and Monanunsap, 1998; Cheng, 2000) is also an indication of the high level of diversity within this population. 7. Central West Pacific The Central West Pacific population is genetically significant in that it has both globally unique haplotypes and ancestral haplotypes. The Central West Pacific has no continental shelf habitats, with all nesting occurring on small islands or atolls that are volcanic or coralline limestone. There is an apparent oceanic boundary between the Central West Pacific and the Central North Pacific population and an apparent biogeographic boundary between the Central West Pacific and the East Indian-West Pacific population. Loss of turtles from this population would create a large gap near the center of the geographic range of the species. 8. Southwest Pacific Clade V haplotypes have only been found at nesting sites in the Southwest Pacific population. In addition to these globally unique haplotypes, the presence of the ancestral haplotypes and significant mtDNA diversity make this population genetically significant. Unlike most other populations in the Pacific Ocean, this population includes island nesting sites in close proximity to coastal foraging areas. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest coral reef system in the world and was periodically isolated over geological time. It provides expansive, year-round foraging habitat for green turtles and supports one of the largest nesting sites in the world. 9. Central South Pacific This population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. To a greater extent than in any other regional population, nesting sites are widely dispersed among a large number of small habitats on islands and atolls. Foraging areas are mostly coral reef ecosystems, with seagrass beds in Tonga and Fiji being a notable exception. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules 10. Central North Pacific mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Mitochondrial DNA in this extensively sampled region includes globally unique haplotypes. Although two haplotypes are shared with individuals in the Revillagigedos Islands in the East Pacific, there is little evidence of significant ongoing gene flow. The loss of this population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. This population has no continentalshelf habitat and all nesting occurs on mid-basin pinnacles. Turtles in this population are known to bask, a rare behavior for modern-day sea turtles, and have unique morphological traits such as unusually large flippers, possibly reflecting adaptations to their ecological setting. This is the most isolated of all populations, with an apparent biogeographic boundary with the Eastern Pacific population and oceanic boundaries with the Central West and Central South Pacific populations. If all turtles were lost from this vast geographic area, it would create a VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 significant gap in the global range of the species. C. Summary of Discreteness and Significance Determinations 11. East Pacific The two cold-water currents on the east side of the Pacific Ocean (the Humboldt Current in the south and the California Current in the north) leave a distinctive region of tropical ocean along the west coasts of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America that is known as the Eastern Pacific Zoogeographic Region (Briggs, 1974). Perhaps as a result, some turtles in this area exhibit a unique overwintering behavior similar to hibernation. This area also has a very narrow continental shelf and low levels of seagrass, resulting in a unique diet for green turtles (e.g., tunicates and red mangrove fruits; Amorocho and Reina, 2007). This population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. Mean size of nesting turtles in the East Pacific is smaller, at approximately 82 cm CCL (Pritchard, 1971) than in any other population, which could reflect an adaptation to local ecological conditions, as could the distinctive ‘‘black’’ phenotype. The Galapagos Island chain is one of the few areas where green turtles bask (Hawai‘i being the other). Loss of all turtles from this population would leave a significant gap in the range of the species as it occurs along much of the eastern boundary of the world’s largest ocean. In summary, the 11 discrete populations identified in the Discreteness Determination section were also determined to be significant to the species, C. mydas. Each is genetically unique, and many are identified by unique mtDNA haplotypes which could represent adaptive differences. Some populations exist in unique or unusual ecological settings influenced by local ecological and physical factors which may also lead to adaptive differences and represent adaptive potential. Some also possess unique morphological or other demographic characteristics that render them significant. Most populations represent a large portion of the species’ range, and their loss would result in a significant gap in the range of the species. Based on the information provided in the Discreteness Determination and Significance Determination sections above, the SRT identified the following 11 potential green turtle DPSs (Figure 2): (1) North Atlantic, (2) Mediterranean, (3) South Atlantic, (4) Southwest Indian, (5) North Indian, (6) East Indian-West Pacific, (7) Central West Pacific, (8) Southwest Pacific, (9) Central South Pacific, (10) Central North Pacific, and (11) East Pacific. We concur with the findings of the SRT and conclude that the 11 potential DPSs identified by the SRT warrant delineation as DPSs. PO 00000 Frm 00015 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4725 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 EP23MR15.001</GPH> There is an apparent oceanic boundary with the Central North Pacific population. Although turtles in this area are poorly studied, they may have evolved adaptations to persist with this very diffuse metapopulation structure. If green turtles were lost from this entire area, it would create a significant gap in the range across the southern Pacific Ocean. 15285 15286 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 VI. Listing Evaluation Process A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs In these sections, we describe the geographic range of each DPS. We discuss its population parameters, which are derived from population data and influence the persistence of the DPS. These population parameters include: Abundance, growth rates or trends, spatial structure, and diversity or resilience (McElhany et al., 2000). NMFS has used this approach in numerous status reviews. USFWS uses a similar approach, based on Shaffer and Stein (2000), to evaluate a species’ status in terms of its representation, resiliency, and redundancy; this methodology has also been a widely accepted approach (Tear et al., 2005). Though expressed differently, these two approaches rely on the same conservation biology principles. Though this information is presented separately from the assessment of threats under section 4(a)(1) of the ESA, population dynamics represent one aspect of the other natural or manmade factors affecting the continued existence of the species that we consider under Factor E. Complete population abundance and trend estimates do not exist for any of the 11 DPSs. The data used in the Status Review and summarized here represent the best scientific information available. The data are more robust for some areas than for others. For each DPS, the primary data available are collected on nesting beaches, either as counts of nests or counts of nesting females, or a combination of both (either direct or extrapolated). Information on abundance and trends away from the nesting beaches is limited and often non-existent, primarily because these data are, relative to nesting beach studies, logistically difficult and expensive to obtain. Therefore, the primary and best available information source for directly evaluating status and trends of the DPSs is nesting data. Nesting female abundance estimates for each nesting site or nesting beach are presented in the Status Review for each potential DPS. Accompanying this information is trend information in the form of bar plots and Population Viability Analysis (PVA) models extending 100 years into the future for the 33 sites that met the criteria for depicting the data this way, i.e., recent (<10 year old) data over a given period of time (10 years for bar plots, 15 years for PVA) with consistent protocols and effort during that time. With regard to spatial structure, the SRT used information from genetic, tagging, telemetry, and demographic VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 data to identify structuring and substructuring within each DPS. This informed the SRT of metapopulation dynamics in order that it might consider these dynamics in considerations about the future of the species, including whether source populations and genetic diversity are being maintained. With regard to diversity and resilience, the SRT considered the extent of ecological variation, including the overall nesting spatial range, diversity in nesting season, and diversity of nesting site structure and orientation, e.g., whether nesting sites are insular or continental, have a high or low beach face, and whether there are a variety of types of sites. The SRT also considered demographic and genetic diversity of the DPS which may indicate its ability to adapt and thus its resilience. One of the considerations when looking at diversity was the DPS’s ability to adapt to climate change including, but not limited to, sea level rise and warming of nesting beaches. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs Section 4 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations at 50 CFR part 424 set forth procedures for adding species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife Species. Under section 4(a) of the ESA, the Services must determine whether a species is threatened or endangered because of any of the following 5 factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. In this rulemaking, information regarding the status of each of the 11 green turtle DPSs is considered in relation to the five factors provided in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. That information presented here is a summary of the information in the Status Review. The reader is directed to the subsection within each DPS section of the Status Review titled ‘‘Analysis of Factors Listed Under ESA Section 4(a)(1)’’ for a more detailed discussion of the factors. C. Conservation Efforts In evaluating the efficacy of protective efforts not yet implemented or not yet proven to be effective, we rely on the Policy on Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions (‘‘PECE’’; 68 FR 15100, March 28, 2003), PO 00000 Frm 00016 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 issued jointly by the Services. Information on conservation efforts for each DPS is summarized from the Status Review. For a more detailed description of conservation efforts, please see that document. When assessing conservation efforts, the SRT assumed that all conservation efforts would remain in place at their current levels. In our final determinations, we considered the conservation benefits of continued protections under the ESA. D. Extinction Risk Assessments and Findings To analyze the extinction risk of each DPS, the SRT collected and presented information on the six critical assessment elements: (1) Abundance, (2) growth rates/trends, (3) spatial structure, (4) diversity/resilience, (5) five factor analysis/threats, and (6) conservation efforts. Shortly after each presentation, the SRT voted twice: A vote on the contribution of each critical assessment element to extinction risk, and a vote on the overall risk of extinction to the DPS (see section 3.3.4 of the Status Review for a more detailed discussion of this process). In the first vote, SRT members ranked the importance of each of the four population parameters (Abundance, Trends, Spatial Structure, Diversity/ Resilience) by assigning them a value from 1 to 5 for each DPS, with 1 indicating a very low risk and 5 indicating a very high risk. SRT members then ranked the influence of the section 4(a)(1) factors (threats) on the status of each DPS by assigning a value of 0 (neutral effect on status—this could mean that threats are not sufficient to appreciably affect the status of the DPS, or that threats are already reflected in the population parameters), –1 (threats described in the 5-factor analysis suggest that the DPS will experience some decline (<5 percent decline) in abundance within 100 years), or –2 (threats described in the 5factor analysis suggest that the DPS will experience significant decline (≥5 percent decline) in abundance within 100 years). They then ranked the influence of conservation efforts on the status of each DPS by assigning a value of 0 (neutral effect on status—this could mean that conservation efforts are not sufficient to appreciably affect the status of the DPS, or that conservation efforts are already reflected in the population parameters), +1 (activities described in Conservation Efforts suggest that the DPS will experience <5 percent increase in abundance within 100 years), or +2 (activities described in Conservation Efforts suggest that the DPS will experience ≥5 percent increase in E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules abundance within 100 years). The SRT did note in discussions that none of these elements is entirely independent. Abundance, growth rates, spatial structure, and diversity/resilience are linked and often dependent on each other. Past threats and conservation efforts affect these four population parameters. To minimize ‘‘double counting,’’ the SRT considered only those threats and conservation measures that are unlikely to be reflected in the population parameters. In the second vote, SRT members provided their expert opinion (via vote) on the likelihood that each DPS would reach a critical risk threshold (quasiextinction) within 100 years. In the Status Review, the SRT defined the critical risk threshold (quasi-extinction) as follows: ‘‘A DPS that has reached a critical risk threshold has such low abundance, declining trends, limited distribution or diversity, and/or significant threats (untempered by significant conservation efforts) that the DPS would be at very high risk of extinction with little chance for recovery.’’ Generally, DPSs were considered to have higher viability if they were composed of a number of relatively large populations, distributed throughout the geographic range of the DPS, and exhibited stable or increasing growth rates. DPSs were considered to be at higher risk if they were composed of fewer robust populations or with robust populations all concentrated in a small geographic area, where they might be susceptible to correlated catastrophes. Any DPS with low phenotypic and/or habitat diversity were also considered to be at higher risk because the entire DPS could be vulnerable to persistent environmental conditions (Limpus and Nicholls, 2000; Saba et al., 2008; Van Houtan and Halley, 2011) or stochastic catastrophic events (Hawkes et al., 2007; Van Houtan and Bass, 2007; Fuentes et al., 2011). Each member was given 100 points to spread across risk categories, reflecting their interpretation of the information for that DPS; the voting results are available in the Status Review. The spread of points is meant to reflect the amount of uncertainty in the risk threshold bins. Risk categories were <1 percent, 1–5 percent, 6–10 percent, 11– 20 percent, 21–50 percent, and >50 percent. We note that, presumably because this species is such a long-lived species and, as such, it is unlikely that it would go extinct within 100 years even if it was lost in many places, every DPS received numerous points in the <1 percent category, including those with the most depressed numbers and that face the highest threats. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 As noted above, the SRT estimated the likelihood that a population would fall below a critical risk threshold within 100 years. The SRT did not define the critical risk threshold quantitatively but instead provided the following definition: ‘‘A DPS that has reached a critical risk threshold has such low abundance, declining trends, limited distribution or diversity, and/or significant threats (untempered by significant conservation efforts) that the DPS would be at very high risk of extinction with little chance for recovery.’’ While the SRT’s review of the DPSs’ statuses was rigorous and extensive, the framework used does not allow us to easily or clearly translate a particular critical risk category to an ESA listing status. Structured expert opinion is a valid and commonly used method of evaluating extinction risk and forms a useful starting point for our analysis. However, in our judgment, the critical risk threshold approach used for this status review does not directly correlate with the ESA’s definitions of endangered and threatened. The ESA defines an ‘‘endangered species’’ as ‘‘any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.’’ The critical risk threshold, as defined by the SRT, is a condition worse than endangered, because it essentially precludes recovery. Thus, while the SRT votes informed our listing determinations, we did not equate a particular critical risk category with an ESA listing status, and therefore the votes were not the basis for those determinations. However, to make our proposed listing determinations, we applied the best available science that was compiled by the SRT in examining the definitions of endangered and threatened species under section 3 of the ESA. After considering the extinction risk, the Services then reviewed the present threats and threats anticipated in the foreseeable future for each DPS. We examined the significant threats to each DPS, how these threats affected that DPS, and how they were predicted to affect the DPS in the foreseeable future. Our analysis weighed each factor within the scope of the ESA’s definitions of threatened and endangered for each DPS. Among other things, the Services also carefully considered where current conditions or protections are present specifically because green turtles are listed under the ESA, and whether those conditions would likely exist absent such a listing. We note that the latter was not considered by the SRT, meaning the SRT conducted all risk PO 00000 Frm 00017 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15287 analyses assuming all protections would remain in place. VII. North Atlantic DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Atlantic DPS The range of the North Atlantic DPS extends from the boundary of South and Central America north along the coast to the northern extent of the green turtle’s range to include Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Mexico, and the United States. It then extends due east across the Atlantic Ocean at 48° N.; follows the coast south to include the northern portion of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (Mauritania; to 19° N.) on the African continent; and west along the 19° N. latitude to the Caribbean basin, turning south and west at 63.5° W., 19° N., and due south at 7.5° N., 77° W. to the boundary of South and Central to include Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Cuba, Turks and Caicos Islands, Republic of Haiti (Haiti), Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. The North Atlantic DPS includes the Florida breeding population, which was originally listed as endangered (43 FR 32800, July 28, 1978). Critical habitat was previously designated for areas within the range of this DPS (i.e., coastal waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; 63 FR 46693, September 2, 1998). Green turtle nesting sites in the North Atlantic are some of the most studied in the world, with time series exceeding 40 years in Costa Rica and 35 years in Florida. Seventy-three nesting sites were identified within the North Atlantic DPS, although some represent numerous individual beaches. For instance, Florida nesting beaches were listed by county with the numerous beaches in each county representing one site and, for other U.S. beaches (from Texas to North Carolina), each state’s nesting beaches were represented as one site. There are four regions that support high density nesting concentrations for which data were available: Tortuguero, Costa Rica; Mexico (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo); Florida, United States; and Cuba. There is one nesting site with >100,000 nesting females (Tortuguero at 131,751; Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Sea Turtle Conservancy, 2013), one with 10,001– 100,000 (Quintana Roo, Mexico at 18,257; Julio Zurita, pers. comm. 2012) and six with 1,001–5,000: Cayo Largo, Cuba; Campeche, Yucatan, and Veracruz, Mexico; and Brevard and Palm Beach Counties, FL, United States. There are four with 501–1,000; Tamaulipas, Mexico; Vieques, Puerto Rico; Martin and Indian River Counties, E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15288 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules FL, United States; nine with 101–500; 26 with <50; and 26 with numbers unquantified. Seventy-nine percent of the nesting turtles in this DPS nest at Tortuguero. Of the nesting sites with long-term data sets, both Tortuguero and the index beaches in Florida exhibit a strong positive trend in the PVAs that were conducted on them, as does Isla Aguada, Mexico (one beach in the Campeche group). Three beaches in Cuba (total of 489 nesting females) either showed no trend or a modest positive trend. One beach in Mexico (El Cuyo, Yucatan) exhibited no trend. Genetic sampling in the North Atlantic DPS has been generally extensive with good coverage of large populations in this region; however, some smaller Caribbean nesting sites are absent and coastal nesting sites in the Gulf of Mexico are under-represented. Genetic differentiation based on mtDNA indicated that there are at least four independent nesting subpopulations in the North Atlantic DPS characterized by shallow regional substructuring: (1) Florida (Hutchinson Island; Lahanas et al., 1994), (2) Cuba (Guanahacabibes ´ ´ Penınsula and Cayerıa San Felipe; RuizUrquiola et al., 2010), (3) Mexico (Quintana Roo; Encalada et al., 1996), and (4) Costa Rica (Tortuguero; Lahanas et al., 1994). These nesting sites are characterized by common and widespread haplotypes dominated by CM–A1 and/or CM–A3. A relatively low level of spatial structure is detected due to shared common haplotypes, although there are some rare/unique haplotypes at some nesting sites. Connectivity may indicate recent shared common ancestry. Green turtles nest on both continental and island beaches throughout the range of the DPS (Witherington et al., 2006). Major nesting sites are primarily continental with hundreds of lower density sites scattered throughout the Caribbean. Green turtles nesting in Florida seem to prefer barrier island beaches that receive high wave energy and that have coarse sands, steep slopes, and prominent foredunes. The greatest nesting is on sparsely developed beaches that have minimal levels of artificial lighting. A high-low nesting pattern for Florida and Mexico occurs during the same years; however, nesting in Tortuguero, Costa Rica is not always in sync with Florida and Mexico (e.g., 2011 was a high nesting year in Florida, but for Tortuguero the high nesting year was 2010). The nesting season is similar throughout the range of the DPS, with green turtles nesting from June to November in Costa Rica (Bjorndal et al., 1999), and May through September in VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 the United States, Mexico, and Cuba (Witherington et al., 2006). B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Atlantic DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone Within the range of the North Atlantic DPS, nesting beaches continue to be degraded from a variety of activities. Destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat results from coastal development, coastal armoring, beachfront lighting, erosion, sand extraction, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic on nesting beaches (Witherington and Bjorndal, 1991; Witherington, 1992; Witherington et al., 1996; Lutcavage et al., 1997; Bouchard et al., 1998; Mosier, 1998; Witherington and Koeppel, 2000; Mosier and Witherington, 2002; Leong et al., 2003; Roberts and Ehrhart, 2007). In addition, sea level rise resulting from climate change poses a threat to all nesting beaches. Portions of the Southern United States and Caribbean are found be to highly vulnerable to sea level rise (Melillo et al., 2014). For instance, along the southern portion of the Florida coastline, one climate change model predicted one meter of sea level rise by 2060, resulting in the inundation of more than 50 percent of coastal wildlife refuges (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 2011). Most green turtle nesting in the United States is concentrated along the southeastern coast of Florida with more than 90 percent of nesting occurring from Brevard to Broward counties (http:// ocean.floridamarine.org/SeaTurtle/ nesting/FlexViewer/). Loss of nesting habitat as a result of sea level rise poses a threat to the population. Sea level rise is exacerbated by coastal development and armoring, which prevents the beach from migrating and causes nesting green turtles to abandon their nesting attempts more frequently as a result of their encounter with such structures (Mosier, 1998; Mosier and Witherington, 2000; Rizkalla and Savage, 2011). Females might nest in sub-optimal habitats, where nests are more vulnerable to erosion or inundation (Rizkalla and Savage 2011). As a result, nests would be subject to more frequent inundation, exacerbated erosion, and increased moisture from tidal overwash, which can potentially alter thermal regimes, an important factor in determining the sex ratio of hatchlings. b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Green turtles in the post-hatchling and early-juvenile stages are closely PO 00000 Frm 00018 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 associated with Sargassum algae in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico (Witherington et al., 2012), and vulnerable to ingesting contaminants such as tar balls and plastics that aggregate in convergent zones where Sargassum aggregates (Witherington, 2002). Juvenile and adult green turtles and their nearshore foraging habitats are also exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as agricultural and residential runoff, and sewage which result in degraded foraging habitat (Smith et al., 1992). Further, increased nutrient load in these coastal waters causes eutrophication. Eutrophication is linked to harmful algal blooms that result in the loss and degradation of seagrass beds, and possibly fibropapilloma tumors in green turtles (Milton and Lutz, 2003). In Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Panama, water quality is also affected by sewage and industrial and agricultural runoff. Pollution remains a major threat in the waters of Jamaica. Major sources of pollution are industrial and agricultural effluent, garbage dumps and solid waste, and household sewage (Greenway, 1977; Green and Webber, 2003). Nearshore foraging habitats such as seagrass beds are affected by propeller scarring, anchor damage, dredging, sand mining, and marina construction throughout the range of the DPS (Smith ´ et al., 1992; Dow et al., 2007; Patrıcio et al., 2011). Sand placement projects along the Florida coastline affect nearshore reefs as a result of direct burial of portions of the reef habitat and loss of food sources available to green turtles (Lindeman and Snyder, 1999). The SRT found, and we concur, that the North Atlantic DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices as considered above in Factor A. The increasing threats to the terrestrial and marine habitats are not reflected in the current trend for the North Atlantic DPS, as it was based on nesting numbers and not on all current life stages. These increasing threats to the population will become apparent when those life stages affected by the threats return to nest, as the trend information is based solely on numbers of nests. This lag time was considered in our analysis. For example, a threat that affects the oceanic juvenile phase would not be detected until those turtles return to nest, approximately 15 to 20 years later. The SRT also found, and we concur, that coastal development, beachfront lighting, erosion, sand extraction, and sea level rise increasingly impact nesting beaches of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 this DPS and are increasing threats to the DPS. significant threat to the persistence of this DPS. 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes A partial list of the countries within the range of the North Atlantic DPS where ongoing intentional capture of green turtles occurs, includes Costa Rica ¨ (Mangel and Troeng, 2001; Gonzalez Prieto and Harrison, 2012), Mexico (Seminoff, 2000; Gardner and Nichols, ´ 2001; Dirado et al., 2002; Guzman´ ´ Hernandez and Garcıa Alvarado, 2011), Cuba (Fleming, 2001; F. Moncado, Ministerio de la Industria Pesquera, pers. comm., 2013), Nicaragua (Lagueux, 1998; Humber et al., 2014), the Bahamas (Fleming, 2001), Jamaica (HaynesSutton et al., 2011), and the Cayman Islands (Fleming, 2001). Harvest remains legal in several of these countries (Humphrey and Salm, 1996; Wamukoya et al., 1996; Fleming, 2001; ¨ Fretey, 2001; Brautigam and Eckert, 2006). The commercial artisanal green turtle fishery in Nicaragua continues to be a threat to the Tortuguero nesting population, the largest remaining green turtle population in the Atlantic (Campbell and Lagueux, 2005). Local demand for turtle meat in coastal communities continues (Garland and Carthy, 2010). There is a legal turtle fishery on the Caribbean coast that is located in the most important developmental and foraging habitat for Caribbean green turtles (Fleming, 2001; Campbell and Lagueux, 2005). The hunting of juvenile and adult turtles continues both legally and illegally in many foraging areas where green turtles originating from Florida nesting beaches ´ are known to occur (Chacon, 2002; Fleming, 2001). Direct take of eggs is also an ongoing threat in Panama (Evans and Vargas, 1998). Green turtles nesting on Belize’s beaches and foraging along its coast are harvested in the Robinson Point area and sold in markets and restaurants (Searle, 2003). Large numbers of green turtles are captured in the area southeast of Belize, an area which may be an important migratory corridor (Searle, 2004). There are important feeding grounds in the Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania. While the frequency of green turtle nesting in Mauritania is not known, green turtle nests are reported as being harvested there (Fretey, 2001; Fretey and Hama, 2012). Commercial harvest of green turtles was a factor that contributed to the historic decline of this DPS. Current harvest of green turtles and eggs, in a portion of this DPS, continues to be 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation Fibropapillomatosis (FP) has been found in green turtle populations in the United States (Hirama, 2001; Ene et al., 2005; Foley et al., 2005; Hirama and Ehrhart, 2007), the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (Dow ´ et al., 2007; Patrıcio et al., 2011), Cayman Islands (Wood and Wood, 1994; Dow et al., 2007), Costa Rica ¨ (Tortuguero; Mangel and Troeng, 2001), Cuba (Moncada and Prieto, 2000), Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula; K. Lopez, pers. comm., as cited in MTSG, 2004), and Nicaragua (Lagueux, 1998). FP continues to be a major problem in some lagoon systems and along the nearshore reefs of Florida. It is a chronic, often lethal disease occurring predominantly in green turtles (Van Houtan et al., 2014). A correlation appeared to exist between these degraded habitats and the prevalence of FP in the green turtles that forage in these areas but no direct link was established (Aguirre and Lutz, 2004; Foley et al., 2005). Indeed, across green turtle populations, it is widely observed that FP occurs most frequently in eutrophied and otherwise impaired waterways (Herbst, 1994; Van Houtan et al., 2010). A recent study establishes that eutrophication substantially increases the nitrogen content of macroalgae, thereby promoting the latent herpes virus which causes FP tumors in green turtles (Van Houtan et al., 2014) although it is argued that there is no inferential framework to base this conclusion (Work et al., 2014). Despite the high incidence of FP among foraging populations, there is no conclusive evidence on the effect of FP on reproductive success (Chaloupka and Balazs, 2005). Harmful algal blooms, such as a red tide, also affect green turtles in the North Atlantic DPS. In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis, a dinoflagellate that produces a toxin (Redlow et al., 2002). Since 2007, there were two red tide events, one in 2007 along the east coast of Florida, and one in 2012 along the west coast of Florida. Sea turtle stranding trends indicated that these events were acting as a mortality factor (A. Foley, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pers. comm., 2013). These events may impact a population’s present and future reproductive status. Predators such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), feral hogs (Sus scrofa), foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus and Vulpes vulpes), and coyotes (Canis latrans) may VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00019 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15289 take significant numbers of turtle eggs (Stancyk, 1982; Allen et al., 2001). Nest protection programs are in place at most of the major nesting beaches in the North Atlantic DPS, although they are managed at varying levels and degrees of effectiveness (Engeman et al., 2005). Predator species that are particularly difficult to manage include red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) and jaguars (Panthera onca) (Wetterer, 2006; Prieto and Harrison, 2012). Although FP disease is of major concern, with increasing levels in some green turtle populations in this DPS, it should be noted there is uncertainty of the long-term survivability and effect on the reproductive effort of the population. Predation is known to occur throughout this DPS, and we find it to be a significant threat to this DPS in the absence of well managed nest protection programs. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms At least 15 regulatory mechanisms that apply to green turtles regionally (e.g., U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act) or globally (e.g., Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) apply to green turtles within the North Atlantic Ocean. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. In the United States, regulatory mechanisms that protect green turtles are in place and include State, Federal, and international laws. The green turtle was listed under the ESA in 1978, providing relatively comprehensive protection and recovery activities to minimize the threats to green turtles in the United States. Considering the dependence of the species on conservation efforts, significant concerns remain regarding the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms. The development and implementation of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the shrimp trawl fishery was likely the most significant conservation accomplishment for North Atlantic green turtles in the marine environment since their 1978 ESA listing. In the southeast United States and Gulf of Mexico, TEDs have been mandatory in shrimp and flounder trawls for over a decade. These regulations are implemented and enforced to varying degrees throughout the Gulf and U.S. Southeast Atlantic. For example, the State of Louisiana prohibits enforcement of TED regulations and tow time limits. In other States, enforcement of TED regulations depends on available E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15290 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules resources, and illegal or improperly installed TEDs continue to contribute to mortality of green turtles. Further, TEDs are not required in all trawl fisheries, and green turtle mortality continues in the Gulf of Mexico, where shrimp trawling is the highest (Lewison et al., 2014). There are also regulatory mechanisms in place that address the loss of nesting habitat, such as the Florida Administrative Code Rule 62B– 33.0155, which addresses threats from armoring structures. However, these regulatory mechanisms allow for variances and armoring permits continue to be issued along nesting beaches. Other threats, such as light pollution on nesting beaches, marine debris, vessel strikes, and continued direct harvest of green turtles in places like Nicaragua, are being addressed to some extent by regulatory mechanisms, although they remain a problem. In addition, other regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles (often all sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. The extent to which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts is difficult to ascertain. When the SRT assessed conservation efforts, it assumed that all conservation efforts would remain in place at their current levels. The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Canary Islands, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the United States (including the commonwealth of Puerto Rico). With regard to the United States, the key law currently protecting green turtles is the ESA. This law has been instrumental in conserving sea turtles, eliminating directed take of turtles in U.S. waters unless authorized by permit and reducing indirect take. In addition, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act has been effective at mandating responsible fishing practices and bycatch mitigation within fleets that sell fisheries products to the United States, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act authorizes a dedicated fund to support marine turtle conservation projects in foreign countries, with emphasis on protecting nesting populations and nesting habitat. In addition, at least 12 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the North Atlantic DPS. Outside of the United States, there are some national regulations that address the harvest of green turtles as well as the import and export of turtle parts. These VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 regulations allow for the harvest of green turtles of certain sizes, months, or for ‘‘traditional’’ use. Gear restrictions and TED requirements exist in a few countries, although the compliance level is unknown. Our Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address marine pollution, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Fisheries bycatch in artisanal and industrial fishing gear continues to be a major threat to green turtles in the North Atlantic DPS. The adverse impacts of bycatch on sea turtles has been documented in marine environments throughout the world (National Research Council, 1990b; Epperly, 2003; Lutcavage et al., 1997). The lack of comprehensive and effective monitoring and bycatch reduction efforts in many pelagic and near-shore fisheries operations throughout the range of the North Atlantic DPS still allows substantial direct and indirect mortality (NMFS and USFWS, 2007). i. Gill Net and Trawl Fisheries Gill net fisheries may be the most ubiquitous of fisheries operating in the neritic range of the North Atlantic DPS. In the United States, some states (e.g., South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas) have prohibited gill nets in their waters, but there remain active gill net fisheries in other U.S. states, in U.S. Federal waters, Mexican waters, Central and South America, and the Northeast Atlantic. Finfish fisheries accounted for the greatest proportion of turtle bycatch (53 percent) in Cuba. In Jamaica, fish traps and gill nets are the gear primarily identified in sea turtle bycatch. Purse seine and gill nets are used commonly in the waters of the Dominican Republic (Dow et al., 2007). In Costa Rica, gill nets, hook and line, and trawls are the main gear types deployed (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004). Shark-netting operations in Panama are known to capture green turtles (Meylan et al., 2013). The development and implementation of TEDs in the U.S. shrimp trawl fishery was likely the most significant conservation accomplishment for North Atlantic green turtles in the marine environment since their 1978 ESA listing. In the southeast United States and Gulf of Mexico, TEDs have been PO 00000 Frm 00020 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 mandatory in shrimp and flounder trawls for over a decade. However, compliance varies throughout the States, and green turtle mortality continues in the Gulf of Mexico, where shrimp trawling is the highest (Lewison et al., 2014). With the current regulations in place, an estimated 3,000 green turtles are captured (1,400 killed) by shrimp trawls each year in the Gulf and U.S. Southeast Atlantic (http:// sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_ resources/section_7/freq_biop/ documents/fisheries_bo/shrimp_biop_ 2014.pdf). These regulations are implemented and enforced to varying degrees throughout the Gulf and U.S. Southeast Atlantic (see discussion in Factor D). ii. Dredge Fishing Dredge fishing gear is the predominant gear used to harvest sea scallops off the mid- and northeastern U.S. Atlantic coast. Sea scallop dredges are composed of a heavy steel frame and cutting bar located on the bottom part of the frame and a bag made of metal rings and mesh twine attached to the frame. Turtles can be struck and injured or killed by the dredge frame and/or captured in the bag, where they may drown or be further injured or killed when the catch and heavy gear are dumped on the vessel deck. b. Channel Dredging In addition to the destruction or degradation of habitat as described in Factor A above, periodic dredging of sediments from navigational channels can also result in incidental mortality of sea turtles. Direct injury or mortality of green turtles by dredges has been well documented in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. (National Research Council, 1990b). From 1980 to 2013, 105 green turtles were impacted as a result of dredging operations in the U.S Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Solutions, including modification of dredges, have been successfully implemented to reduce mortalities and injuries to sea turtles in the United States (73 FR 18984, April 8, 2008; 77 FR 20728, April 6, 2012), and NMFS imposes annual take limits based on the expected number of green turtles impacted that will not, directly or indirectly, appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of the green turtle in the wild. c. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic Boat strikes have been shown to be a major mortality source in Florida (Singel et al., 2003). Vessel strikes are a growing concern and, as human populations increase in coastal areas, E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 vessel strikes are likely to increase (NMFS and FWS, 2008). From 2005 to 2009, 18.2 percent of all stranded green turtles (695 of 3,818) in the U.S. Atlantic (Northeast, Southeast, and Gulf of Mexico) were documented as having sustained some type of propeller or collision injuries (L. Belskis, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). It is quite likely that this is a chronic, albeit unreported, problem near developed coastlines in other areas as well, such as Panama ´ (e.g., Oros et al., 2005). d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly, they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Climate change and sea level rise have the potential to affect green turtles significantly in the North Atlantic DPS. North Atlantic turtle populations could be affected by the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), resulting in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Increased sea surface temperatures may alter the timing of nesting for some stocks (Weishampel et al., 2004), although the implications of changes in nesting timing are unclear. Changes in sea temperatures will also likely alter seagrass, macroalgae, and invertebrate populations in coastal habitats in many regions (Scavia et al., 2002). Further, a significant rise in sea level, as is projected for areas within the range of the North Atlantic DPS (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 2011), could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat due to coastal development. Structures on the landward side of the beach can effectively prevent access to nesting habitat and reduce available nesting habitat (Mosier, 1998). The increasing interaction between the structures and the hydrodynamics of tide and current, due to sea level rise, often results in the alteration of the beach profile seaward and in the immediate vicinity of the structure (Pilkey and Wright, 1988; Terchunian, 1988; Tait and Griggs, 1990; Plant and Griggs, 1992), increased longshore currents that move sand away from the area, loss of interaction between the dune and the beach berm, and concentration of wave energy at the ends of the structure (Schroeder and Mosier, 1996). Impacts from global climate change induced by human VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). Periodic hurricanes and other weather events are generally localized and rarely result in whole-scale losses over multiple nesting seasons. However, storm intensity and frequency are predicted to increase as a result of climate change (Melillo et al., 2014). The negative effects of hurricanes on low-lying and/or developed shorelines may be longer-lasting and a greater threat to the DPS overall when combined with the effects of climate change, and particularly sea level rise. e. Effects of Cold Stunning Cold stunning is the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Cold stunning of green turtles regularly occurs at several locations in the United States, including Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts (Still et al., 2002); Long Island Sound, New York (Meylan and Sadove, 1986; Morreale et al., 1992); the Indian River Lagoon system and the panhandle of Florida (Mendonca and Ehrhart, 1982; ¸ Witherington and Ehrhart, 1989; Foley et al., 2007); and Texas inshore waters (Hildebrand, 1982; Shaver, 1990). Coldstunning events at these foraging areas (Witherington and Ehrhart, 1989; McMichael et al., 2006) leads to mortality of juvenile and adult green turtles, which may affect the present and future green turtle population trend. 15291 result of ingesting contaminants (Witherington, 2002). Green turtles are affected by anthropogenic marine debris (including discarded fishing gear) and plastics throughout the North Atlantic DPS. Juvenile green turtles in pelagic waters are particularly susceptible to these effects as they feed on Sargassum in which there is a high occurrence of debris (Wabnitz and Nichols, 2010; Witherington et al., 2012). In recent decades, there has been an increase in stranded green turtles reported as affected by discarded fishery gear throughout the southeastern United States (Teas and Witzell, 1996; Adimey et al., 2014). C. Conservation Efforts for the North Atlantic DPS In the North Atlantic, nest protection efforts have been implemented on two major green turtle nesting beaches, Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and Florida, and progress has been made in reducing mortality from human-related impacts on other nesting beaches. Tortuguero National Park was established in 1976 to protect the nesting turtles and habitat at this nesting beach, which is by far the largest in the DPS and the western hemisphere. Since that time, the harvest of nesting turtles on the beach has been reduced by an order of magnitude (Bjorndal et al., 1999). At Tortuguero, Sea Turtle Conservancy researchers and volunteers regularly monitor green turtle nesting f. Contaminants and Marine Debris trends, growth rates and reproductive Several activities associated with success, and also conduct sea turtle offshore oil and gas production, lighting surveys, education, and including oil spills, operational community outreach. discharge, seismic surveys, explosive In Florida, a key effort was the platform removal, platform lighting, and acquisition of the Archie Carr National drilling and production activities, are Wildlife Refuge in Florida in 1991 by known to affect sea turtles (National Federal, State, Brevard and Indian River Research Council, 1996; Davis et al., counties, and a non-governmental 2000; Viada et al., 2008; Conant et al., organization, where nesting densities 2009; G. Gitschlag, NMFS, pers. comm., range from 36 nests/km (22 nests/mi) to 2007, as cited in Conant et al., 2009). Oil 262 nests/km (419 nests/mi) (D. Bagley, University of Central Florida, pers. spills near nesting beaches just prior to comm., 2014; K. Kneifl, USFWS, pers. or during the nesting season place comm., 2014). Over 60 percent of the nesting females, incubating egg available beachfront acquisitions for the clutches, and hatchlings at significant Refuge have been completed as the risk from direct exposure to result of a multi-agency land acquisition contaminants (Fritts and McGehee, effort. In addition, Hobe Sound National 1982; Lutcavage et al., 1997; Wildlife Refuge, as well as coastal Witherington, 1999), and have negative national seashores such as the Dry impacts on nesting habitat. The Deepwater Horizon (Mississippi Canyon Tortugas National Park and Canaveral National Seashore, military installations 252) oil spill, which started April 20, such as Patrick Air Force Base and 2010, discharged oil into the Gulf of Canaveral Air Force Station, and State Mexico through July 15, 2010. parks where green turtles regularly nest, Witherington et al. (2012) note that the provide protection for nesting turtles. Deepwater Horizon oil spill was However, despite these efforts, particularly harmful to pelagic juvenile green turtles. Due to their size, turtles in alteration of the coastline continues and, outside of publicly-owned lands, these stages are more vulnerable as a PO 00000 Frm 00021 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15292 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 coastal development and associated coastal armoring remain serious threats. Considerable effort has been expended since the 1980s to document and reduce commercial fishing bycatch mortality. In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, measures (such as gear modifications, changes to fishing practices, and time/area closures) are required to reduce sea turtle bycatch in pelagic longline, mid-Atlantic gill net, Virginia pound net, scallop dredge, and southeast shrimp and flounder trawl fisheries. However, enforcement of regulations depends on available resources, and bycatch continues to contribute to mortality. Since 1989, the United States has prohibited the importation of shrimp harvested in a manner that adversely affects sea turtles. As a result of conservation efforts, many of the intentional impacts directed at sea turtles have been lessened. For example, harvest of eggs and adults has been reduced at several nesting areas, including Tortuguero, and an increasing number of communitybased initiatives are in place to reduce the take of turtles in foraging areas. However, despite these advances, human impacts continue throughout the North Atlantic. The lack of effective monitoring in pelagic and near-shore fisheries operations still allows substantial direct and indirect mortality, and the uncontrolled development of coastal and marine habitats threatens to destroy the supporting ecosystems of long-lived green turtles. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Atlantic DPS In the North Atlantic DPS, there are several regions that support high density nesting concentrations, including possibly the largest in the world at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Green turtle nesting population trends have been encouraging, exhibiting long-term increases at all major nesting sites, ¨ including Tortuguero (Troeng, 1998; ¨ Campbell and Lagueux, 2005; Troeng and Rankin, 2005) and Florida (Chaloupka et al., 2008; B. Witherington, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pers. comm., 2013). The North Atlantic DPS is characterized by geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites, both mainland and insular. The increasing threats are not reflected in the current trend for the North Atlantic DPS as it was based on nesting numbers and not all current life stages. These increasing threats to the population will become apparent when those life stages affected by the threats return to nest as the trend information is based solely on numbers of nests. This lag time was VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 considered in our analysis. However, the 5-factor (section 4(a)(1) of the ESA) analysis revealed continuing threats to green turtles and their habitat that affect all life stages. On nesting beaches, many portions of the DPS continue to be exposed to, and are negatively impacted by, coastal development and associated beachfront lighting, coastal armoring, and erosion as described in Factor A above. Impacts from such development are further exacerbated by existing and planned shoreline development and shoreline engineering. The current and anticipated increase in armored shoreline along high density nesting beaches, particularly in Florida, is a substantial unresolved threat to the recovery and stability of this DPS as it will result in the permanent loss of nesting habitat. Nests and hatchlings are susceptible to predation which is prevalent throughout the beaches within the range of the North Atlantic DPS. Predation would be an increasing threat without nest protection and predatory control programs in place. Nesting beaches are also extremely susceptible to sea level rise, which will exacerbate some of the issues described above in addition to leading to the potential loss of nesting beaches. Along the southeastern United States, one climate change model predicted a 1-meter sea level rise by 2060, resulting in the inundation of more than 50 percent of coastal wildlife refuges (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 2011). Green turtle nesting in Florida is concentrated along coastal wildlife refuges in southern Florida such as Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge and the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 90 percent of nesting occurring along southeast Florida. This increase in sea level will result in the permanent loss of current green turtle nesting habitat. Loss of beach is expected to be worse as a result of the increase in hurricane frequency and intensity (Flaxman and VargasMoreno, 2011). The increasing threat of coastal erosion due to climate change and sea level rise is expected to be exacerbated by increasing humaninduced pressures on coastal areas (IPCC, 2007). In the water, fisheries bycatch, habitat degradation, direct harvest, and FP are major threats to green turtles in the North Atlantic DPS. Artisanal and industrial fishing gear, including drift nets, set nets, pound nets, and trawls, still cause substantial direct and indirect mortality of green turtles (NMFS and USFWS, 2007). In addition, degradation and loss of foraging habitat PO 00000 Frm 00022 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 due to pollution, including agricultural and residential runoff, anchor damage, dredging, channelization, and marina construction remains a threat to both juvenile and adult green turtles. Many green turtles in this DPS remain susceptible to direct harvesting. Current legal and illegal harvest of green turtles and eggs for human consumption continues in the eastern Atlantic and the Caribbean. A remaining threat is the directed harvest of turtles in Nicaragua that nest at Tortuguero and thus belong to the largest and arguably the most important population within the DPS (although this population continues to increase in spite of the harvest). However, potential degradation or loss of other, smaller populations is also of concern, as these contribute to the diversity and resilience of the DPS. Finally, the prevalence of FP has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the North Atlantic DPS. The extent to which this will affect the longterm outlook for green turtles in the North Atlantic DPS is unknown. Nesting trends across the DPS continue to increase despite the high incidence of the disease. While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in many of the critical population parameters (abundance, population trends, spatial structure, and diversity/resilience), as indicated above, numerous threats continue to act on the DPS, including habitat degradation (coastal development and armoring, loss of foraging habitat, and pollution), bycatch in fishing gear, continued turtle and egg harvesting, FP, and climate change. Importantly, the analysis of threats in the Status Review was conducted assuming current management regimes would continue. Many of the gains made by the species over the past few decades are a direct result of ESA protections in the United States, as well as protections by U.S. States and local jurisdictions and other countries within the DPS range that are influenced by the species’ ESA status. Because the green turtle is currently listed under the ESA, take can only be authorized in the United States through the processes provided in sections 7 and 10 of the ESA and their implementing regulations. In the southeastern United States, threats to nesting beaches and nearshore waters include: Sand placement on nesting beaches and associated impacts to nearshore hardbottom habitat; groin, jetty and dock construction; and other activities. Any such activities that are currently funded, permitted and/or authorized by Federal agencies are subject to consultation with USFWS and NMFS, E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules and therefore are subject to reasonable and prudent measures to minimize effects of these activities as well as conservation recommendations associated with those consultations. Federally-managed fisheries are also subject to interagency consultation under section 7 of the ESA. During the consultation process NMFS and USFWS have an opportunity to work with the action agency to design practices to minimize effects on green turtles, such as when the activity occurs in areas or habitats used mostly by green turtles (i.e., seagrass beds and nesting beaches). Activities that affect green turtles and do not involve Federal agencies, such as beach driving, some beach armoring, and research, must comply with section 10 of the ESA to avoid violating the statute. Section 10 permits require avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to green turtles to the extent possible. In addition to the above requirements, the requirement for use of TEDs in fisheries within the United States and in fisheries outside of the United States that export wild-caught shrimp to the United States is tied to listing under the ESA. This DPS has exhibited increases at major nesting sites, and has several stronghold populations. Green turtles in the U.S. Atlantic have increased steadily since being protected by the ESA (Suckling et al., 2006). ESA driven programs such as land acquisition, nest protection, development of the TEDs, and educational programs provide a conservation benefit to green turtles. The species is conservation dependent or conservation-reliant in that even when biological recovery goals are achieved, maintenance of viable populations will require continuing, species-specific intervention (Scott et al., 2010). Without alternate mechanisms in place to continue certain existing conservation efforts and protections, threats would be expected to increase and population trends may be curtailed or reversed. Considering the conservation dependence of the species, significant concerns remain regarding the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms (one of the five section 4(a)(1) factors (Factor D), especially when we evaluate the status of the DPS absent the protections of the ESA. For the above reasons, we propose to list the North Atlantic DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of the increasing nesting population trends and geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 VIII. Mediterranean DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Mediterranean DPS The Mediterranean Sea is a virtually enclosed basin occupying an area of approximately 2.5 million square kilometers. The Mediterranean DPS is bounded by the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, excluding the Black Sea. The westernmost border of the range of this DPS is marked by the Strait of Gibraltar (Figure 2). Nesting in the Mediterranean occurs mostly in the eastern Mediterranean, with three nesting concentrations in Turkey, Cyprus, and Syria. Currently, approximately 452 to 2,051 nests are laid in the Mediterranean each year— about 70 percent in Turkey, 15 percent in Cyprus, and 15 percent in Syria, with trace nesting in Israel, Egypt, the Hellenic Republic (Greece), and Lebanon (Kasparek et al., 2001; Rees et al., 2008; Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). There are no sites with greater than 500 nesting females. These numbers are depleted from historical levels (Kasparek et al., 2001). In terms of distribution of nesting sites in the Mediterranean, there are 32 sites, with Akyatan, Turkey being the largest nesting site, hosting 25 percent of the total annual nesting (35–245 nesting ¨ females; Turkozan and Kaska, 2010). There are seven sites for which 10 years or more of recent data are available for annual nesting female abundance (a criterion for presenting trends in a bar graph). Of these, only one site—West Coast, Cyprus—met our standards for conducting a PVA. Of the seven sites, five appeared to be increasing, although some only slightly, and two had no apparent trend. However, while the Mediterranean DPS appears to be stable or increasing, it is severely depleted relative to historical levels. This dynamic is particularly apparent along the coast of Palestine/ Israel, where 300–350 nests were deposited each year in the 1950s (Sella, 1995) compared to a mean of eight nests each year from 1993 to 2008 (Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Mediterranean has been extensive and the coverage in this region is substantial. Within the Mediterranean, rookeries are characterized by one dominant haplotype CM–A13 and a recent study showed no population substructuring between several rookeries in Cyprus and Turkey (Bagda et al., 2012). However, analysis using unpublished data from additional rookery samples in Cyprus shows evidence for two stocks: Cyprus (Karpaz, North Cyprus and Lara Bay; PO 00000 Frm 00023 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15293 Bagda et al., 2012; Dutton unpublished data, 2013); and Turkey (Akayatan, Alata, Kazanli, Samandag and Yumurtal(k; Bagda et al., 2012). The demography of green turtles in the Mediterranean appears to be consistent among the various nesting assemblages (Broderick and Godley, 1996; Broderick et al., 2002a). This consistency in parameters such as mean nesting size, inter-nesting interval, clutch size, hatching success, nesting season, and clutch frequency suggests a low level of population structuring in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean turtles have not been detected foraging outside the Mediterranean (e.g., Lahanas et al., ´ ¨ 1998; Monzon-Arguello et al., 2010). Despite years of flipper tagging (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 1995, 2010; Y. Kaska, Pamukkale University, pers. comm., 2013), few tag recoveries have been reported. However, satellite tracking revealed that post-nesting turtles migrate primarily along the coast from their nesting beach to foraging grounds, increasing the likelihood of interacting with fisheries (Broderick et al., 2002a). With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall spatial range of the DPS is limited. Green turtle nesting is found primarily in the eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt: Kasparek et al., 2001). The nesting season is consistent throughout the range of this DPS (June to August; Broderick et al., 2002a), thus limiting the temporal buffering against climate change in terms of impacts due to storms and other seasonal events. The fact that turtles nest on both insular and continental sites suggests some degree of nesting diversity, but with the sites so close together, the benefits of this diversity may be minimal. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Mediterranean DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone In the Mediterranean, destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat result from coastal development and construction, beachfront lighting, sand extraction, beach erosion, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and beach pollution (Kasparek et al., 2001; Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). These activities may directly affect the amount and suitability of nesting habitat available to nesting females and thus affect the nesting success of green turtles, as well as the survivability of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15294 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 eggs and hatchlings. In Turkey, coastal ˘ construction on Samandag and Kazanli beaches is of concern, particularly from associated lighting and human activities ¨ on the beach (Turkozan and Kaska, 2010). In Cyprus, the increased construction of beachfront hotels and other properties in some areas in recent years, as well as the associated increase in beachfront lighting and human activity on the beach, is decreasing the quality of nesting habitat (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010). In Turkey and Latakia beach in Syria, beach erosion and sand extraction also pose a problem to green turtle ¨ nesting habitat (Turkozan and Kaska, 2010; Rees et al., 2010). Nesting beaches in the eastern Mediterranean are exposed to high levels of pollution and marine debris, in particular the beaches of Cyprus, ˜ Turkey, and Egypt (Caminas, 2004). In Turkey, marine debris washing ashore is a substantial problem and has degraded nesting beaches, especially Akyatan and ˘ Samandag beaches. In Syria, Jony and Rees (2008) reported that beaches contain a large amount of plastic litter that washes ashore or is blown in from dumps located in the beach dunes; this litter has been documented as accumulating in such large amounts that it can hinder nesting females from locating suitable nesting sites and cause emergent hatchlings to have difficulty crawling to the sea (Rees et al., 2010). In Cyprus, marine debris has also been a significant problem on some beaches, although organized beach clean-ups in recent years have greatly reduced the amount of litter on the beach (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010). b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Dynamite fishing and boat anchors affect green turtles and their habitat in the Mediterranean. Khalil et al. (2009) reported that dynamite fishing offshore of nesting beaches is a common problem in Lebanon. Illegal dynamite fishing also occurs year round in Libya (Hamza, 2010), and, although illegal, explosions at sea that are likely due to dynamite fishing have been reported off the coast of Syria (Saad, unpubl. data, as cited in Rees et al., 2010). Further, the Mediterranean is a site of intense tourist activity, and corresponding boat anchoring also may affect green turtle foraging habitat in the neritic environment. Because the Mediterranean is an enclosed sea, organic and inorganic wastes, toxic effluents, and other pollutants rapidly affect the ecosystem VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 ˜ (Caminas, 2004). The Mediterranean has been declared a ‘‘special area’’ by the MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), in which deliberate petroleum discharges from vessels are banned, but numerous repeated offenses are still thought to occur (Pavlakis et al., 1996). 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Overutilization for commercial purposes likely was a factor that contributed to the historical declines of this DPS. Egg collection and turtle harvest for individual consumption still occurs in Egypt (Clarke et al., 2000; Nada and Casale, 2008). A study found that the open selling of sea turtles in Egypt generally has been curtailed due to enforcement efforts, but a high level of intentional killing for the black market or for direct personal consumption still exists (Nada and Casale, 2008). Several hundred turtles are currently estimated to be slaughtered each year in Egypt (Nada and Casale, 2008). In Syria and Egypt, as reported for other countries, green turtles incidentally captured by fishers are sometimes eaten (Nada and Casale, 2008; Rees et al., 2010). Small quantities of stuffed turtles and juvenile turtle carapaces, presumably of Syrian origin, have been observed for sale in Latakia and Damascus (Rees et al., 2010). 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation Nest and hatchling predation likely was a factor that contributed to the historical decline of the Mediterranean DPS. There have been no records of FP or other diseases in green turtles in this DPS. In this DPS, green turtle eggs and hatchlings are subject to depredation by wild canids (i.e., foxes (Vulpes vulpes), golden jackals (Canis aureus), feral and domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), and ghost crabs (Ocypode cursor; van Piggelen and Strijbosch, 1993; Brown and MacDonald, 1995; Aureggi et al., 1999, 2005; Simms et al., 2002; Akcinar et al., 2006; Jony and Rees, 2008; Khalil et al., 2009; Aureggi and Khalil, 2010; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010; Rees et al., 2010). 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms There are at least 13 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the Mediterranean, and nearly all countries lining the Mediterranean have some level of national legislation directed at sea turtle protection. The SRT analysis of these PO 00000 Frm 00024 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the countries within this DPS. Most Mediterranean countries have developed national legislation to protect sea turtles and nesting habitats (Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. In addition, at least 13 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Mediterranean DPS. National protective legislation generally prohibits intentional killing, harassment, possession, trade, or attempts at these (Margaritoulis et al., 2003). In addition, some countries have site-specific legislation or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. These are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS. There are some national regulations, within this DPS, that specially address the harvest of green turtles. In western Cyprus, Lara-Toxeftra beaches have been afforded protection through the Fisheries Law and Regulations since 1989 (Margaritoulis, 2007). In northern Cyprus, four beaches (Alagadi Beach, Karpaz Peninsular, South Karpaz, and Akdeniz) have been designated as Special Protected Areas (Fuller et al., 2010). These four areas include the third and fifth most important green turtle nesting beaches in the Mediterranean (Kasparek et al., 2001). In Syria, establishment of a protected area at Latakia beach, the most important green turtle nesting beach in the country, is being sought but is facing strong opposition from the tourism sector (Rees et al., 2010). While it is important to recognize the success of these protected areas, we must also note that the protection has been in place for some time and the threats to the species remain (particularly from increasing tourism activities). It is unlikely that the protective measures discussed here are sufficient for the conservation of the species in the Mediterranean. Regulatory mechanisms are not in place in many countries within this DPS to address the major threat of sea turtle bycatch. Some of the countries in which this DPS is located limit the number and type of fishing licenses issued but sea turtle bycatch is not considered in these authorizations. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. Our Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address coastal development, marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture of sea turtles in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a significant threat to the survival of green turtles in the Mediterranean. Fishing practices alone have been estimated to result in over 150,000 sea turtle captures per year, with approximately 50,000 mortalities (Lucchetti and Sala, 2009; Casale, 2011) and sea turtle bycatch in multiple gears in the Mediterranean is considered among the most urgent conservation priorities globally (Wallace et al., 2010). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 i. Longline Fisheries In the Mediterranean, surface longline fisheries are a source of green turtle ˜ bycatch (Caminas, 2004). Incidental captures have been reported from Cyprus (Godley et al., 1998), Turkey (Godley et al., 1998), Italy (Laurent et al., 2001), and Egypt (Nada, 2001; ˜ Caminas, 2004). In Egypt, based on fleet data and catch rates reported by fishers during the 2000s, the total number of sea turtles (i.e., all species) bycaught in longlines was estimated to be over 2,200 per year (Nada and Casale, 2008). Fishers also reported that some of the caught turtles are dead, and the incidence of mortality is particularly high in longlines and gill nets. ii. Set Net (Gill Net) Fishing Casale (2008) considered mortality by set nets to be 60 percent, with a resulting estimate of 16,000 turtles killed per year. However, a breakdown of these estimates by turtle species is not available. Most of these turtles are likely juveniles, with an average size of 45.4 cm CCL (n=74, Casale, 2008). iii. Trawl Fisheries Green turtles have been reported as incidentally captured in bottom trawls in Egypt (Nada and Casale, 2011), VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Greece (Margaritoulis et al., 2003), Tunisia (Laurent et al., 1990), Turkey (Laurent et al., 1996; Oruc, 2001), Syria, ¸ Israel, and Libya (Casale et al., 2010), but are likely also captured by bottom trawlers in other neritic foraging areas in the eastern Mediterranean (Casale et al., 2010). Laurent et al. (1996) estimated that approximately 10,000 to 15,000 sea turtles were being captured annually by bottom trawling in the eastern Mediterranean. Although most of the turtles taken were loggerheads, they estimated that the number of green turtles taken was 1,000 to 3,000 annually in Turkey and Egypt alone. More recently, Casale (2011) compiled available trawl bycatch data throughout the Mediterranean and reported that Italy and Tunisia have the highest level of sea turtle bycatch, potentially over 20,000 captures per year combined, and Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Libya, Greece, and Egypt each have an estimated 1,900 or more sea turtle captures per year. Further, Albania, Algeria, Cyprus, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, and Syria may each capture a few hundred sea turtles per year (Casale, 2011). Available data suggest the annual number of sea turtle captures by all Mediterranean trawlers may be greater than 39,000 (Casale, 2011). Although most of the turtles reported by Casale (2011) as taken by bottom trawlers were undoubtedly loggerheads, a few thousand were likely green turtles based on earlier reports (Laurent et al., 1990; Laurent et al., 1996; Oruc, 2001; ¸ Margaritoulis et al., 2003; Nada and Casale, 2008). b. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic Propeller and collision injuries from boats and ships are becoming more common for sea turtles in the Mediterranean, although it is unclear as to whether the events, or just the reporting of the injuries, are increasing. Speedboat and jet-ski impacts are of particular concern in areas of intense tourist activity, such as Greece, Turkey, and Syria. Boats operating near sea turtle nesting beaches during the nesting season are likely to either cause females to abandon nesting attempts or cause ˜ their injury or death (Caminas, 2004). Males may also be affected in high-use boating areas where sea turtle mating occurs (Demetropoulos, 2000; Rees et al., 2010). c. Pollution Unattended or discarded nets, floating plastics and bags, and tar balls are of particular concern in the Mediterranean ˜ (Caminas, 2004; Margaritoulis, 2007). Monofilament netting appears to be the PO 00000 Frm 00025 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15295 most dangerous waste produced by the ˜ fishing industry (Caminas, 2004). The discharge of chemical substances, including highly toxic chromium compounds from a soda-chromium factory close to the Kazanli nesting beach in Turkey, is cause for concern (Kasparek et al., 2001; Venizelos and Kasparek, 2006). d. Effects of Climate Change Both the marine and terrestrial realms will be influenced by temperature increases and will likely undergo alterations that will adversely affect green turtles. Mediterranean turtle populations could be affected by the alteration of thermal sand characteristics (from global warming), resulting in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Kasparek et ˜ al., 2001; Caminas, 2004; Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). In northern Cyprus, green turtle hatchling sex ratios are already thought to be highly female biased (approximately 95 percent female; Wright et al., 2012). This, in tandem with predicted future rises in temperatures, is cause for concern (Fuller et al., 2010). As temperatures increase, there is also concern that incubation temperatures will reach levels that exceed the thermal tolerance for embryonic development, thus increasing embryo and hatchling mortality (Fuller et al., 2010). Further, a significant rise in sea level would restrict green turtle nesting habitat in the eastern Mediterranean. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch and marine pollution that occurs throughout the range of the Mediterranean DPS are significant threats to this DPS. In addition, boat strikes and changes likely to result from climate change are an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts Regional and national efforts are underway to conserve green turtles (often all sea turtles) throughout the range of the DPS. The extent to which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts is difficult to ascertain. Green turtle nesting primarily occurs in Turkey, Cyprus, and Syria, and a E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15296 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 notable proportion of nesting in those areas is protected through various mechanisms. In Turkey, three important green turtle nesting beaches (Alata, Kazanli, and Akyatan) were all designated as protected areas by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, while two ¨ other beaches (Belek and Gosku Delta) also have some level of protected status (Kasparek et al., 2001; Fuller et al., 2010). These five protected beaches represent approximately 60 percent of nesting in Turkey (see Canbolat et al., 2009 and Fuller et al., 2010). There has been success within these protected areas, but as the protection has been in place for some time and the threats to the species remain (particularly from increasing tourism activities), it is unlikely that the protective measures discussed here are sufficient for the conservation of the species in the Mediterranean. Marine debris is also a significant problem on many green turtle nesting beaches in the eastern Mediterranean, in particular the nesting beaches of Cyprus ˜ and Turkey (Caminas, 2004; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, ¨ 2010; Fuller et al., 2010; Turkozan and Kaska, 2010). Although organized beach clean-ups in recent years on some beaches in Cyprus have greatly reduced the amount of litter on the beach (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010), it is still an overall pervasive problem. Protection of marine habitats is in the early stages in the Mediterranean, as in other areas of the world. Off the LaraToxeftra nesting beaches in western Cyprus, a marine protection zone extends to the 20-m isobath (i.e., 20-m depth line) as delineated by the Fisheries Regulation (Margaritoulis, 2007; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010). As mentioned above, establishment of a protected area at Latakia beach in Syria is being sought and would include protection of a section of sea offshore; however, it is facing strong opposition from the tourism sector (Serra, 2008; Rees et al., 2010). D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings The Mediterranean DPS is characterized by low green turtle nesting abundance at 32 different locations, with many of these sites having only one or two known nesting females and none having greater than 245 nesting females. While some of these sites show stable or increasing trends, the extremely low nesting abundance of this DPS compared to historical abundance creates an VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 intrinsically high risk to the long-term stability of the population. The spatial range of the population is limited to the eastern Mediterranean, and the nesting season is consistent throughout this DPS (June to August; Broderick et al., 2002a), thus limiting the temporal buffering against climate change in terms of impacts due to storms and other seasonal events. The fact that turtles nest on both insular and continental sites suggests some degree of nesting diversity but, with the sites so close together, the benefits of this diversity may be minimal. Mitochondrial DNA studies have identified two stocks but, in general there is low population substructuring in the Mediterranean. The five-factor analysis in the Status Review reveals numerous significant threats to green turtles within the range of the DPS. Coastal development, beachfront lighting, erosion resulting from sand extraction, illegal harvest, detrimental fishing practices, and marine pollution both at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds are continuing concerns across the Mediterranean DPS, and are insufficiently tempered by conservation efforts. Current illegal harvest of green turtles for human consumption continues as a moderate threat to this DPS. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the Mediterranean Sea, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles in pelagic longline, set net, and trawl fisheries. Additional threats from boat strikes, which are becoming more common, and changes likely to result from climate change will negatively affect this DPS. For the above reasons, we propose to list the Mediterranean DPS as endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance, limited spatial distribution, and exposure to increasing threats, we find that this DPS is presently in danger of extinction throughout its range. IX. South Atlantic DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the South Atlantic DPS The South Atlantic DPS’s range boundary begins at the border of Panama and Colombia at 7.5° N., 77° W., heads due north to 10.5° N., 77° W., then northeast to 19° N., 63.5° W., and along 19° N. latitude to Mauritania in Africa, to include the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. It extends along the coast of Africa to South Africa, with the southern border being 40° S. latitude. Green turtle nesting occurs on beaches along the western coast of Africa from southern Mauritania to South Africa, in the middle of the South PO 00000 Frm 00026 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Atlantic on Ascension Island, in the Caribbean portion of the South Atlantic including Caribbean South America, and along eastern South America down through Brazil (Figure 2). In the eastern South Atlantic, significant sea turtle habitats have been identified, including green turtle feeding grounds in Corisco Bay, Equatorial Guinea/Gabon (Formia, 1999); Congo (Bal et al., 2007; Girard et al., 2014); Mussulo Bay, Angola (Carr and Carr, 1991); and Principe Island (SWOT, 2010). In the western South Atlantic, juvenile and adult green turtles utilize foraging areas throughout the Caribbean areas of the South Atlantic, often resulting in interactions with fisheries occurring in those same waters (Dow et al., 2007). While no nesting occurs as far south as Uruguay and Argentina, both countries have important foraging grounds for South Atlantic green turtles (LopezMendilaharsu et al., 2006; Lezama, ´ 2009; Gonzalez Carman et al., 2011; Prosdocimi et al., 2012; Rivas-Zinno, 2012). Within the range of the South Atlantic DPS, there are a total of 51 nesting sites (some being individual beaches and others representing multiple nesting beaches) that can be roughly divided into four regions: western Africa, Ascension Island, Brazil, and the South Atlantic Caribbean (including Colombia, the Guianas, and Aves Island in addition to the numerous small, insular nesting sites). Much of the South Atlantic is data poor with only occasional or incomplete nesting surveys. Therefore, for 37 of the 51 identified nesting areas of this DPS, we were not able to estimate nesting female abundance, even for relatively large nesting sites such as French Guiana. Of the nesting sites for which an estimate could be derived, three account for the ˜ bulk of the nesting: Poilao, GuineaBissau (29,016 nesting females; Catry et al., 2009); Ascension Island, UK (13,417 nesting females; S. Weber, Ascension Island Government, pers. comm., 2013); and the Galibi Reserve, Suriname (9,406 nesting females; Schulz, 1975; Weijerman et al., 1998). There are two sites with >10,000 nesting females ˜ (Poilao and Ascension Island); one site with 5,001–10,000 nesting females (Suriname); three sites with 1,001–5,000 nesting females (Trindade Island, Brazil (2,016; Almeida et al., 2011; Projecto Tamar, 2011); Aves Island, Venezuela (2,833; Prieto et al., 2012); and Matapica Reserve, Suriname (3,661; A. Turney, pers. comm., 2012). There are three sites with 501–1,001 nesting females, three sites with 101–500, two sites with 51– ˜ 100, and 37 unquantified sites. Poilao E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules accounts for almost 46 percent of the total number of nesting females. Long-term monitoring data for this DPS are relatively scarce. There are three sites for which 10 or more years of recent data are available for annual nesting female abundance (a criterion for presenting trends in a bar graph in the Status Review): (1) Ascension Island, UK; (2) Galibi and Matapica Reserves, Suriname; and (3) Atol das Rocas, Brazil. Together, the first two sites represent approximately 26,759 nesting females (42 percent of the population), while the third site has only 275 nesting females (Bellini et al., 2013). Ascension Island, and Galibi and Matapica Reserves have exhibited substantial increases since the 1970s. Although they did not meet the criteria for presenting bar graphs, there are indications of trends at other beaches in the South Atlantic, such as increasing trends at Isla Trindade, Brazil, and Aves Island, Venezuela, and decreasing trends at Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. With regard to spatial structure, the phylogenic relationship of the eastern Caribbean nesting sites indicates that, despite the close proximity of other Caribbean nesting sites, they are more closely related to the nesting sites in the South Atlantic (M. Jensen, NRC, unpubl. data). Green turtle nesting sites found in Brazil, Ascension Island, and West Africa have shallow structuring and are dominated by a common and widespread haplotype, CM–A8, that is found in high frequency across all nesting sites in the South Atlantic (Bjorndal et al., 2006; Formia et al., 2006). A recent study showed that a large proportion of juvenile green turtles foraging in Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic originated from distant nesting sites across the Atlantic, namely Suriname (38 percent), Ascension Island (12 percent), and Guinea Bissau (19 percent), suggesting that, like the loggerheads, green turtles in the Atlantic undertake transoceanic developmental ´ ¨ migrations (Monzon-Arguello et al., 2010). The fact that long distance dispersal is only seen for juvenile turtles suggests that larger adult-sized turtles return to forage within the region of their natal nesting sites, thereby limiting the potential for gene flow across larger ´ ¨ scales (Monzon-Arguello et al., 2010). Important foraging grounds in the western South Atlantic, such as those off of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, are shared by turtles from various nesting assemblages in the western South Atlantic and Ascension Island. Important foraging grounds in the eastern South Atlantic, such as the Gulf of Guinea, are shared by turtles from the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 eastern South Atlantic as well as juveniles from Suriname and Ascension Island. Overall, many demographic parameters of green turtles in the South Atlantic appear to vary widely among the various nesting assemblages. However, this variability in parameters such as remigration interval, clutch size, hatching success, sex ratio, and clutch frequency is not separated out regionally within the range of the DPS and therefore does not necessarily suggest a high level of population structuring. Average sizes of nesting females are the largest reported for females globally (Hirth, 1997; Almeida et al., 2011; Bellini et al., 2013). With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall range of the DPS is extensive and varied, with both insular and continental nesting. Ascension Island, one of the largest nesting sites, is isolated and protected in the middle of the South Atlantic, and appears to have migratory connections to nesting sites on the eastern and western ends of the DPS’s range. The insular sites vary quite a bit in terms of potential impacts from sea level rise and tropical weather. Aves Island, one of the largest Caribbean nesting sites within the range of the South Atlantic DPS is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise as it is a very low-lying island. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the South Atlantic DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone At continental sites in the South Atlantic DPS destruction and modification of sea turtle nesting habitat (for green turtles and other species) result from coastal development and construction, placement of erosion control structures and other barriers to nesting, beachfront lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, sand extraction, beach erosion, beach sand placement, beach pollution, removal of native vegetation, and planting of non-native vegetation (D’Amato and Marczwski, 1993; Marcovaldi and dei Marcovaldi, 1999; Naro-Maciel et al., 1999; Broderick et al., 2002b; Marcovaldi et al., 2002; Formia et al., 2003; Tanner, 2013). In very low-lying islands such as Aves, rising sea levels and increased storms could result in a loss of nesting habitat, thus potentially eliminating their functionality as nesting beaches. PO 00000 Frm 00027 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15297 b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones On the western side of the South Atlantic, the Brazil Current Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) region is characterized by the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) as suffering severe impacts in the areas of pollution, coastal habitat modification, and overexploitation of fish stocks (Marques et al., 2004). The Patagonian Shelf LME is moderately affected by pollution, habitat modification, and overfishing (Mugetti et al., 2004). In the Canary Current LME, the area is characterized by the GIWA as severely impacted in the area of modification or loss of ecosystems or ecotones and health impacts, but these impacts are decreasing (http:// www.lme.noaa.gov). The Celtic-Biscay Shelf LME is affected by alterations to the seabed, agriculture, and sewage ´ ´ ´ (Valdez-Gonzalez and Ramırez-Bautista, 2002). The Gulf of Guinea has been characterized as severely impacted in the area of solid wastes by the GIWA; this and other pollution indicators are increasing (http://www.lme.noaa.gov). On the eastern side of the South Atlantic, the Benguela Current LME has been moderately impacted by overfishing, with future conditions expected to worsen by the GIWA (Prochazka et al., 2005). In Brazil, green turtles in degraded coastal areas that have ingested plastic debris have been found to have diets that are lower in diversity and quality (Santos et al., 2011). Off the northwestern coast of Suriname run-off from rice production and other agricultural activities is a problem (Reichart and Fretey, 1993) and likely would have similar impacts. The reduction of carrying capacity for green turtles in seagrass beds impacted by anchor damage in popular bays in the U.S. Virgin Islands has also been documented (Williams, 1988). Likewise, sediment contamination from coastal and upstream industrial sites has been recognized in the Caribbean, including St. Croix (Ross and DeLorenzo, 1997), and has the potential to impact green turtle habitat as well as the turtles themselves. Such coastal degradation has been seen throughout the Caribbean areas that fall within the range of the South Atlantic DPS (Dow et al., 2007). In summary, we find that the South Atlantic DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices as considered above in Factor A. However, sufficient data are not available to assess the significance of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15298 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules these threats to the persistence of this DPS. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Overutilization for commercial purposes likely was a factor that contributed to the historical declines of this DPS. Although legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles persists as a threat to this DPS, it does not appear to be a significant threat to its resilience. Eggs are taken for human consumption in Brazil, but the amount is considered minor when compared to historical rates of egg collection (Marcovaldi and dei Marcovaldi, 1999; Marcovaldi et al., 2005; Almeida and Mendes, 2007). Use of sea turtles, including green turtles, for medicinal purposes occasionally occurs in northeastern Brazil (Alvez and Rosa, 2006; Braga-Filho and Schiavetti, 2013). Egg harvest occurred in the Galibi area until 1967 when a ban was enacted. Subsequently, a controlled harvest was allowed until the early 2000s via permit with poaching continuing at approximately 100 to 450 nests per year (Reichart and Fretey, 1993). Throughout the Caribbean areas of the South Atlantic DPS, harvest of green turtle eggs and turtles, both illegal and legal, continues (Dow et al., 2007). Among the British Caribbean territories within the South Atlantic DPS (including Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, the British Virgin Islands, and Montserrat) there are legal sea turtle fisheries, with anywhere from a few (Montserrat) to over a thousand (Turks and Caicos) green turtles taken per year (Godley et al., 2004). Turtles are harvested along the west African coast and, in some areas, are considered a significant source of food and income due to the poverty of many ´ residents (Formia et al., 2003; Tomas et ´ al., 2010). In the Bijagos Archipelago (Guinea-Bissau), all sea turtles are protected by national law, but enforcement is limited and many turtles are killed by locals for consumption (Catry et al., 2009). 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation FP is highly variable in its presence and severity throughout the range of the DPS, with areas of lower water quality, especially due to nutrient enrichment, often being the sites with the most prevalent and most severe cases of FP. In Brazilian waters, FP has been documented but is highly variable among sites (Williams and BunkleyWilliams, 2000). FP has been confirmed among green turtles of Africa’s Atlantic coast, from Gabon and Equatorial VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Guinea (Formia et al., 2013), GuineaBissau (Catry et al., 2009), Gambia, and Senegal (Barnett et al., 2004), the Congo and Principe Island (Girard et al., 2013). The prevalence varies greatly among locations. Eggs and nests in Brazil experience depredation, primarily by foxes (Dusycion vetulus; Marcovaldi and Laurent, 1996). Nests laid by green turtles in the southern Atlantic African coastline experience predation from local wildlife and feral animals, such as jackals (Canus sp.; Weir et al., 2007). Shark predation on green turtles, especially by tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), has been documented off northeastern Brazil at a frequency high enough to indicate that green turtles may be an important food source for tiger sharks off Brazilian waters (Bornatowski et al., 2012). Predation on nesting females can also occur from large predators, such as jaguars (Panthera onca) in Suriname (Autar, 1994). On Ascension Island predation by domestic and feral cats (Felus sp.) and dogs (Canus sp.), frigate birds (Fregata minor), land crabs (subphylum Crustacea), and fish (class Osteichthyes) have all been cited as mortality sources for hatchling green turtles (Broderick et ´ al., 2002a). On the Bijagos Archipelago nest predation by monitor lizards (Varanus sp.) was highly variable, with green turtle nests experiencing 76 ˜ percent predation rates on Joao Vieira (da Silva Ferreira, 2012). On the southern beaches of Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea, predation on eggs and hatchlings can come from a wide variety of species, such as ghost crabs (family Ocypodidae), ants (family Formicidae), monitor lizards, monkeys (suborder Haplorrhini), porcupines (order Rodentia), vultures (family Accipitridae) and crows (Corvus sp.), in addition to ´ village dogs (Tomas et al., 1999). Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms There are at least 20 national and international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the South Atlantic DPS. Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the countries within this DPS are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS, with some countries having no commitment to the implementation of the regulation. The main threats to South Atlantic green turtles include fishery bycatch, marine debris and PO 00000 Frm 00028 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 pollution, habitat destruction affecting eggs and hatchlings at nesting beaches, and nest and hatchling predation. Most South Atlantic countries, including those in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa, have developed national legislation and have various projects sponsored by governments, local communities, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to protect sea turtles and nesting and foraging habitats to varying degrees (Dow et al., 2007; Formia et al., 2003). The consistency and effectiveness of such programs likely vary greatly across countries and over time based on resource availability and political stability. In addition, some countries have site specific legislation or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. Regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles (often all sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. The extent to which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts is difficult to ascertain. The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Angola, Argentina, Ascension Island, Benin, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, French Guiana, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Guyana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, St. Helena, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra-Leone, South Africa, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Venezuela. The Status Review described limited regulatory mechanisms to address bycatch, such as TED requirements; however, there are no widespread regulations to address bycatch as a result of the gill net fisheries. A variety of countries operate industrial trawling off Guinea-Bissau. The national government does not have any requirements for TED use in their waters. There is also extensive illegal fishing occurring (Catry et al., 2009). ´ While the Bolama-Bijagos Biosphere Reserve covers the entire archipelago and provides some protection through the management of the reserve and the survey work patrolling the areas, limited enforcement and resource shortages limit the effectiveness of the reserve. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality, discussed in more detail in Factor E, can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. The Status Review did not reveal any regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address coastal development, marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Green turtles are incidentally captured throughout the South Atlantic DPS in pelagic and demersal longlines, drift and set gill nets, bottom and midwater trawls, fishing dredges, pound nets and weirs, haul and purse seines, pots and traps, and hook and line gear. There is also substantial documentation of the interaction of small-scale artisanal gill net fisheries with green turtles in their foraging grounds along the western South Atlantic, with green turtles documented as the most common species stranded throughout the coast of Brazil (Marcovaldi et al., 2009); Lima et al., ´ 2010; Barata et al., 2011; Lopez-Barrera et al., 2012). Similarly, artisanal gill net fisheries in the coastal waters of the Rio de la Plata area of Uruguay were estimated to have captured 1,861 green turtles over the 13-month duration of a study, despite a time-area closure during the ‘‘peak’’ season identified in Lezama (2009). Incidental captures of juvenile green turtles have also been documented on important foraging grounds off ´ Argentina, especially Samborombon Bay ´ and El Rincon, primarily from gill nets used by the artisanal fisheries, but also from shrimp nets and other artisanal ´ fishing gear (Gonzalez Carman et al., 2011). Green turtles utilizing foraging grounds off Argentina have been demonstrated to be primarily from the Ascension Islands nesting beaches, although individuals from Trindade Island, Suriname, and Aves Island nesting assemblages were also utilizing the Argentine foraging grounds (Prosdocimi et al., 2012). Therefore impacts to green turtles off Argentina affect a variety of nesting assemblages within the western and central South Atlantic. A variety of countries operate industrial trawling off Guinea-Bissau. The national government does not have VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 any requirements for TED use in their waters. There is also extensive illegal fishing occurring (Catry et al., 2009). ´ While the Bolama-Bijagos Biosphere Reserve covers the entire archipelago and provides some protection through the management of the reserve and the survey work patrolling the areas, limited enforcement and resource shortages limit the effectiveness of the reserve. In Ghana and the Ivory Coast, fish stocks have been reduced through overfishing and environmental degradation, and many fishers that incidentally catch sea turtles will keep and kill the turtle to feed their families (Tanner, 2013). Since 2001, a push has been made to generate alternative sources of income for the local populations of the Ivory Coast and to employ ex-poachers to patrol the ˜ beaches (Penate et al., 2007). b. Marine Debris and Pollution Various studies have shown high prevalence of marine debris ingestion by green turtles in the western South Atlantic, in some cases occurring in 100 percent of the individuals examined (Bugoni et al., 2001; Tourinho et al., 2010; Guebert-Bartholo et al., 2011; Murman, 2011). Oil exploration and extraction within the Gulf of Guinea rapidly increased since the discovery of oil reserves in the 1980s and 1990s (Formia et al., 2003), with the associated activities and potential for oil spills and other pollution creating a threat to the important foraging areas and nesting beaches for green turtles in the area. c. Effects of Climate Change As in other areas of the world, climate change and sea level rise have the potential to affect green turtles in the South Atlantic. Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased sea surface temperature, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. In very low-lying islands such as Aves, rising sea levels and increased storms could potentially eliminate its functionality as a nesting beach. Some beaches will likely experience lethal incubation temperatures that will result in losses of complete hatchling cohorts (Fuentes et al., 2010; Fuentes et al., 2011; Glen and Mrosovsky, 2004). While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is PO 00000 Frm 00029 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15299 expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). In summary, within Factor E, we find that bycatch that occurs throughout the South Atlantic, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from nearshore gill net fisheries, continues to be a significant threat to this DPS. In addition, changes likely to result from climate change are also an increasing threat to this DPS and likely a significant threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the South Atlantic DPS The main in-water threat to green turtles in the South Atlantic DPS is incidental capture in fisheries, although marine debris and pollution are also threats. The main threat on beaches is habitat destruction, followed by hatchling predation. Most South Atlantic countries, including those in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa, have developed national legislation and have various projects sponsored by governments, local communities, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations to protect sea turtles, and nesting and foraging habitats to varying degrees (Dow et al., 2007; Formia et al., 2003). The consistency and effectiveness of such programs likely vary greatly across countries and over time based on resource availability and political stability. In addition, some countries have site specific legislation or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. When assessing conservation efforts, we assumed that all conservation efforts would remain in place at their current levels. Conservation through education is a widely-used and valuable tool throughout nations within the range of the South Atlantic DPS and around the world. Such education initiatives can be highly successful. In Akassa, Nigeria, a dedicated, intensive conservation education program by the Akassa Community Development Project resulted in sea turtles being recognized locally as an essential part of the area’s natural heritage. This has resulted in the majority of the nests in Akassa being protected, and when live stranded turtles are found, they are released (Formia et al., 2003). However, in areas where the utilization of sea turtles is deeply ingrained in the local culture, such as the La Guajira region of E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15300 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Colombia (Patino-Martinez et al., 2012), changing people’s attitudes about the use of sea turtles can be a long, slow process. In the Caribbean, green turtle conservation on the nesting beach varies widely among the 22 nations and territories. However, programs at the three largest nesting sites—Aves Island, French Guiana, and Suriname—with over 500 crawls per year (Dow et al., 2007), provide protection to a significant proportion of nesting in the area. In South America, outside of the Caribbean, Brazil is the only nation with substantial green turtle nesting. In Brazil, the primary nesting areas are monitored by Projeto TAMAR, the national sea turtle conservation program, and many detrimental human activities are restricted by various state and Federal laws (Marcovaldi and dei Marcovaldi, 1999; Marcovaldi et al., 2002; 2005). Nevertheless, tourism development in coastal areas in Brazil is high, and Projeto TAMAR works toward raising awareness of turtles and their conservation needs through educational and informational activities at their Visitor Centers that are dispersed throughout the nesting areas (Marcovaldi et al., 2005; Marcovaldi 2011). Since 1990, TAMAR has worked along green turtle foraging areas such as Almofala and Ubatuba (Marcovaldi et al., 2002). The South Atlantic Association is a multinational group that includes representatives from Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina that meets bi-annually to share information and develop regional action plans to address threats, including bycatch. In 2001, the Brazilian Plan for Reduction of Incidental Sea Turtle Capture in Fisheries was created to address incidental capture of the five species in the country (Marcovaldi et al., 2002, 2006). This national plan includes various activities to mitigate bycatch, including time-area restrictions of fisheries, use of bycatch reduction devices, and working with fishers to successfully release live-captured turtles. In Uruguay, all sea turtles are protected from human impacts, including fisheries bycatch, by presidential decree (Decreto Presidencial 144/98). The Karumbe conservation project in Uruguay has been working on assessing in-water threats to marine turtles for several years (see http://cicmar.org/proyectos/ promacoda), with the objective of developing mitigation plans in the future. In Argentina, various conservation organizations are working toward assessing bycatch of green VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 turtles and other sea turtle species in fisheries, with the objective of developing mitigation plans for this threat (http://www.prictma.com.ar). Green turtle nesting occurs on many beaches along the western coast of Africa, and there have been, and continue to be, sea turtle projects in many of the nations in the area ranging from research to public awareness to government conservation efforts (see Formia et al., 2003 for a regional synopsis). The largest nesting ´ ˜ assemblages occur on Poilao, Bijagos Archipelago, Guinea Bissau, and on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. While conservation efforts on the beaches have been established, issues with enforcement capabilities and resources make consistent protection problematic (Catry et al., 2009; Formia et al., 2003; ´ Tomas et al., 2010). Since 2001, a push has been made to generate alternative sources of income for the local populations of the Ivory Coast and to employ ex-poachers to patrol the ˜ beaches (Penate et al., 2007). Green turtle conservation efforts on Ascension Island have involved extensive monitoring, outreach, and research. The group Turtles in the UK Overseas Territories promotes the conservation, research, and management of marine turtle populations and their habitats, and has worked extensively on Ascension Island (http:// www.seaturtle.org/mtrg/projects/tukot/ ascension.shtml). Additionally, there are legal prohibitions protecting sea turtles on Ascension. Overall, conservation efforts for green turtles in the South Atlantic DPS are inconsistent. While there are numerous and varied conservation efforts, especially on the primary nesting beaches, many issues remain due to limited enforcement of existing laws and marine protected areas as well as extensive fishery bycatch, especially in coastal waters. The effectiveness and consistency of conservation measures will need to be increased substantially to prevent the further decline, and allow the recovery, of this DPS in the future. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the South Atlantic DPS Nesting abundance for this DPS is relatively high, with large rookeries spread out geographically, the two ˜ largest at Poilao, Guinea-Bissau, and Ascension Island, UK. Population trends within rookeries are inconsistent and, in many cases, the data are limited and a trend could not be determined, even for major rookeries. While some nesting beaches such as Ascension Island, Aves Island, and Galibi appear to ˜ be increasing, others such as Poilao, PO 00000 Frm 00030 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Trindade, and Atol das Rocas seem to be stable or do not have sufficient data to make a determination. Bioko, Equatorial Guinea, appears to be in decline. The diversity/resilience of the DPS is bolstered by the widespread nature of the rookeries, but a potential concern is the domination of the DPS by insular nesting sites, which has the potential to reduce the resilience of the DPS in the face of sea level rise and increasing tropical storm activity. The 5-factor analysis in the Status Review revealed numerous continuing threats to green turtles within the South Atlantic DPS. Habitat destruction and degradation both at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds is a continuing concern, though inconsistent across the DPS. Overutilization (harvest) of green turtles within the South Atlantic was likely a primary factor in past declines. While reduced from those levels due to increased legal protections, harvest is still thought to be fairly extensive in some areas of western Africa. Fishery bycatch also continues to be a major concern throughout the range of the DPS, near nesting beaches and foraging areas as well as on the high seas. Despite increasing legal protections for sea turtles within the DPS, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms is a noted issue. While many international and national laws purporting to protect sea turtles exist, limitations in resources and political will create a situation of inconsistent or sometimes nonexistent practical measures to enforce those laws. Increasing awareness and conservation efforts by governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations, and industries have helped to reduce threats, but efforts remain inconsistent and often resource limited. While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in many of the critical population parameters, there are still concerns about the impacts of ongoing threats. The increasing threats are not reflected in the current trend for the South Atlantic DPS as it was based on nesting numbers and not all current life stages. These increasing threats to the population will only become apparent when those life stages affected by the threats return to nest and the beaches are consistently monitored, as the trend information is based solely on numbers of nests. This lag time and nesting data were considered in our analysis. For the above reasons, we propose to list the South Atlantic DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of high nesting abundance and E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 X. Southwest Indian DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Southwest Indian DPS The range of the Southwest Indian DPS has as its western boundary the shores of continental Africa from the equator, just north of the Kenya-Somalia border, south to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), and extends south from there along 19° E. longitude to 40° S., 19° E. Its southern boundary extends along 40° S. latitude from 19° E. to 84° E., and its eastern boundary runs along 84° E. longitude from 40° S. latitude to the equator. Its northern boundary extends along the equator from 84° E. to the continent of Africa just north of the Kenya-Somalia border (Figure 2). Nesting occurs along the east coast of Africa as far south as 25° S., the north, west, and south coasts of Madagascar, and scattered offshore islands in the southwest Indian Ocean (Figure 8.1 in the Status Review). Foraging occurs along the east coast of Africa, around Madagascar where numerous seagrass beds are found, and on shallow banks and shoals throughout the region, including those associated with virtually every island in Seychelles (Mortimer, 1984; Mortimer et al., 1996). Small and immature turtles are also concentrated in Mozambique around Bazaruto and Inhassoro and in Maputo Bay (Bourjea, 2012). Along the coast of Kenya, an aerial survey in 1994 indicated that sea turtles are widely distributed within the 20-m isobaths mainly within seagrass beds and coral reefs (Frazier, 1975; Wamukoya et al., 1996; Okemwa et al., 2004). The eastern seaboard of South Africa serves as a feeding and developmental area for green turtles (Bourjea, 2012). For the DPS, there are 14 nesting sites with some measure of abundance, four of which have more than 10,000 nesting females: Europa (Eparses Islands, France; 25,500; Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012), Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles; 16,000 (Mortimer et al., 2011; Mortimer, 2012; J. Mortimer ´ unpubl. data)), Moheli (Comoros; 15,000 (Bourjea, 2012), and Mayotte (France; 12,000; Bourjea et al., 2007a; Bourjea, 2012). Les Glorieuses has 5,001–10,000 nesting females (6,000; Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012). Five sites have 1,001–5,000 nesting females: Tromelin Island; 4,500 (Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012); Kenya; 1,500 (Okemwa et al., 2004); Tanzania; 1,500 (Muir, 2005; Bourjea, 2012); Mauritius; 1,800 VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 (Bourjea, 2012); and Assumption, Cosmoledo, Astove, and Farquhar in the Seychelles; ∼2,000 (J. Mortimer unpubl. data). There are four sites with <500 nesting females: Madagascar; Mozambique; Amirantes Group, Seychelles; and Inner Islands of the Seychelles; and 23 more sites with unquantified numbers of nesting females. The largest nesting site, Europa, accounts for approximately 30 percent of all nesting. Green turtles in the Southwest Indian Ocean were exploited for many decades (Hughes, 1974; Frazier, 1980, 1982; Mortimer et al., 2011); however, the species has successfully recovered at some nesting beaches in the recent years and trend data show increasing trends, albeit largely at protected sites (Bourjea, 2012). At protected nesting sites with long-term monitoring, five out of six monitoring sites have shown increase in nesting activities (Europa, Glorieuses, ´ Mayotte, Moheli, and Aldabra), whereas a declining trend has been reported for Tromelin Island (Bourjea, 2012). There are three nesting sites with greater than 10 years of recent monitoring data: Les Glorieuses, Europa and Tromelin, Eparses Islands, the trends of which are discussed above. No sites met our standards for conducting a PVA. With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Southwest Indian DPS has been fairly extensive and nesting sites are relatively well represented, with the exception of the northern nesting sites. Mitochondrial DNA studies indicate a moderate degree of spatial structuring within this DPS, with connectivity between proximate nesting sites (see below). Overall, the Southwest Indian DPS appears to have at least two genetic stocks: (1) The South Mozambique Channel consisting of Juan de Nova and Europa; and (2) the numerous nesting sites in the North Mozambique Channel consisting of ´ Nosy Iranja, Mayotte, Moheli, Glorieuses, Cosmoledo, Aldabra, Farquhar, also including Tromelin located east of Madagascar (Bourjea et al., 2006). Satellite telemetry data are available for green turtles that nest at some nesting beaches within the range of this DPS. Green turtles nesting along the East African coast confine their migration to along the coast. This is in contrast to those nesting on islands (e.g., Comoros, Eparses, and Seychelles), which reach the East African or Malagasy coast via ‘migration corridors’ or along mid-oceanic seagrass beds. This behavior is believed to be mainly attributable to the fact that those areas are characterized by a network of large seagrass beds (Bourjea, 2012). PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15301 With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting in the Southwest Indian DPS occurs throughout the range of this DPS on islands, atolls, and on the main continent of Africa in Kenya. The nesting substrate can be variable as some of the nesting beaches are volcanic islands and the atolls are made of coralline sand. Nesting occurs throughout the year with peaks that vary among nesting sites (Dalleau et al., 2012; Mortimer, 2012). The fact that turtles nest on both insular and continental sites, in variable substrates and at different peak seasons suggests a high degree of nesting diversity and indicates some resiliency. The genetic structure of this DPS is characterized by high diversity and a mix of unique and rare haplotypes, as well as common and widespread haplotypes. These common and widespread haplotypes (CM–A8, CmP47 and CmP49) make up the majority of the haplotypes present in the Southwest Indian DPS and appear to be ancestral haplotypes (based on presence in the South Atlantic and Southwest Pacific DPSs). The Southwest Indian Ocean represents a genetic hotspot with 0.3 to 6.5 percent (mean = 4.2 percent) estimated sequence divergence among the seven haplotypes identified. These haplotypes belong to three highly diverged genetic clades of haplotypes and highlights the complex colonization history of the region. There have been no nDNA studies from this region, nor are there studies published on genetic stock composition at foraging areas within the range of the Southwest Indian DPS. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Indian DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone Habitat degradation is reported as an important source of additional mortality for this DPS, although the exact scale of habitat destruction at nesting beaches often is undocumented (Bourjea, 2012). In particular, habitat destruction due to development of the coastline and dredging or land-fill in foraging areas is a threat to green turtles throughout the Seychelles (Mortimer et al., 1996). Increases in tourism and human population growth on Mayotte Island may lead to further negative impacts upon this coastal environment (Bourjea et al., 2007). The possible negative effects of artificial lighting at a main nesting beach on Aldabra are of concern at the Seychelles (Mortimer et al., 2011), although it is currently being addressed E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15302 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules (J. Mortimer, Seychelles Dept. of Environment, pers. comm., 2014). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones ´ In Moheli, Comoros Islands, habitat degradation due to sedimentation, sand extraction, and coral reef/seagrass bed degradation is also a concern (Ahamada, 2008). Similar situations are reported for Tanzania (Bourjea, 2012) and Madagascar (Ciccione et al., 2002; Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994 as cited in Bourjea, 2012). For both the terrestrial and the neritic/oceanic zones, we believe that sufficient data are not available to assess the significance of these threats to the persistence of this DPS. 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles throughout the Southwest Indian DPS for human consumption persists as a threat to this DPS. Egg poaching has been reported for Comoros Islands (Ahamada, 2008; Bourjea, 2012); Mozambique (Costa et al., 2007; Videira et al., 2008); Tanzania (Bourjea, 2012); Madagascar (Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Ciccione et al. 2002 as cited in Bourjea, 2012; Lilette, 2006 as cited in Bourjea, 2012); and Kenya (Bourjea, 2012). Egg exploitation has affected green turtle populations in the Maldives (Seminoff et al., 2004). Illegal egg collection in Mauritius seems to be an important source of mortality but no data are available. Nesting green turtle numbers in the Seychelles have increased at protected sites, but declined where there has been heavy poaching, as on the developed ´ islands of Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue (Bourjea, 2012). On Assumption Island and Aldabra, the number of nesting females was known to have decreased due to overharvesting (Mortimer, 1984), but they have been protected at Aldabra since 1968 (J. Mortimer, pers. comm., Seychelles Dept. of Environment, 2014). Areas of particularly heavy exploitation of green turtles include foraging locations in the Western Indian Ocean such as Madagascar (Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Mbindo, 1996; Bourjea, 2012). Artisanal fisheries, such as beach seines and gill nets, have been reported to take tens of thousands of turtles annually (Hughes, 1981; Rakotonirina, 1987; Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Lilette, 2006; Humber et al., 2010). This exploitation affects turtles nesting in the Eparses Islands, where poaching and illegal trade at international foraging grounds are also a threat (Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007). Similarly, commercial and small-scale fisheries at foraging grounds along the east African coast, mainly Tanzania and Kenya, affect green turtles nesting on Mayotte, Comoros Islands (Bourjea et al., 2007). Intentional capture of green turtles continues in the Seychelles (Seminoff et al., 2004) and in the east coast of Africa (Baldwin et al., 2003; Louro et al., 2006). In summary, current legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles persists as a threat throughout this DPS. The killing of nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green turtle populations in many areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult abundance and egg production. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation The prevalence of FP in the Southwest Indian DPS is not known. FP is extremely rare among green turtles in Seychelles (J.A. Mortimer, unpublished data). Side striped jackals (Canis adustus) and honey badgers (Melivora capensis) are known to depredate nests on the mainland coast of East Africa (Baldwin et al., 2003). However, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms There are at least 15 national and international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the Southwest Indian DPS. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels; however, some are not realizing their full potential because they are not adequately enforced. Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green turtles are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS with some countries having no commitment to the implementation of the regulation. Existing regulatory mechanisms to address bycatch and coastal development are not implemented adequately as evident by the high level of bycatch within this DPS. In addition to broad-reaching international instruments, the following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Mozambique, Republic of Seychelles, Comoros Islands, Mayotte Island, and the French Eparses Islands. However, these regulatory mechanisms are not range-wide and do not address the loss of the nesting beach, overutilization, and bycatch that are significant threats to this DPS. The PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Status Review revealed a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to address sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Quantifying the magnitude of the threat of fisheries on green turtles in the Southwest Indian DPS is very difficult given the low level of observer coverage and dearth of investigations into bycatch conducted by countries that have large fishing fleets. Sea turtles are caught in demersal and pelagic longlines, trawls, gill nets, and seines (Peterson, 2005; Louro et al., 2006; Costa et al., 2007; Fennessy and Isaksen, 2007; Peterson et al., 2007; 2009). Bycatch is a concern along the east coast of Africa and in many island Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), including the Seychelles, Mayotte, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. (Mortimer et al., 1996; Bourjea et al., 2007a; Bourjea, 2012). b. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. In the Southwest Indian DPS, climate change could have profound long-term impacts on nesting populations because much of the nesting occurs in low-lying islands and atolls. The pending sea level rise from climate change is a potential problem, as this will inundate nesting sites and decrease available nesting habitat (Daniels et al., 1993). While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that occurs throughout the range of the DPS, particularly bycatch of green turtles from long lining operations, small E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 prawn trawl fishery, and coastal gill nets, can affect juvenile to adult size turtles. In addition, climate change and natural disasters are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Indian DPS Nine countries of the southwest Indian Ocean developed and signed the Indian Ocean Southeast Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA; www.ioseaturtles.org): Comoros in June 2001, United Republic of Tanzania in June 2001, Kenya in May 2002, Mauritius in July 2002, Madagascar in January 2003, Seychelles in January 2003, South Africa in February 2005; and Mozambique and France (Indian Ocean) in December 2008. IOSEA aims to develop and assist countries of the region in the implementation of the IOSEA regional strategy for management and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. Accordingly, IOSEA has been successfully coordinating and closely monitoring region-wide conservation efforts in the Indian Ocean for years. This has included the development of a state-of-the-art online reporting facility, satellite tracking, genetic regional database, flipper tag inventory, and a global bibliographic resource. Also within the Southwest Indian DPS, the Western Indian Ocean-Marine Turtle Task Force plays a role in sea turtle conservation. This is a technical, non-political working group comprised of specialists from eleven countries: ´ Comoros, France (La Reunion), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, United Kingdom and Tanzania, as well as representatives from intergovernmental organizations, academic, and non-governmental organizations within the region. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is playing an increasingly constructive role in turtle conservation. In 2005, the IOTC adopted Resolution 05/08, superseded by Resolution 09/06 on Sea Turtles, which sets out reporting requirements on interactions with sea turtles and accordingly provides an executive summary per species for adoption at the Working Party on Ecosystem and By-catch and then subsequently at the Scientific Committee. In 2011, IOTC developed a ‘‘Sea Turtle Identification Card’’ to be distributed to all long-liners operating in the Indian Ocean (http:// www.iotc.org/). Although there is considerable uncertainty in anthropogenic mortalities, especially in the water, the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 15303 DPS may have benefitted from conservation efforts at the nesting beaches. continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Indian DPS The Southwest Indian DPS is characterized by relatively high levels of green turtle nesting abundance and increasing trends. The overall nesting range for the Southwest Indian DPS occurs throughout the range of this DPS on islands, atolls, and on the main continent of Africa in Kenya. The fact that turtles nest on both insular and continental sites, and nesting substrate can be variable as some of the nesting beaches are volcanic islands and the atolls are made of coralline sand, suggests a high degree of nesting diversity. Nesting also occurs throughout the year with peaks that vary among rookeries (Dalleau et al., 2012; Mortimer, 2012). The genetic structure of this DPS is characterized by high diversity and a mix of unique and rare haplotypes, as well as common and widespread haplotypes. However, the five-factor analysis in the Status Review revealed continuing threats to green turtles and their habitat within the range of the DPS. Nesting beaches throughout the range of this DPS are susceptible to coastal development and associated beachfront lighting, erosion, and sea level rise. Coral reef and seagrass bed degradation continues in portions of the range of the DPS affecting foraging turtles. Direct capture of juvenile and adult turtles continues to take place using a variety of gear types in artisanal and industrial fisheries. The Southwest Indian DPS is protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as a few national laws, and there are protected beaches throughout the range of this DPS. As a result of these designations and agreements, many of the intentional impacts directed at sea turtles have been lessened, such as the harvest of eggs and adults in several nesting areas, although the extent to which they are reduced is not clear. While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in many of the critical population parameters, there are still concerns about threats to the DPS from fisheries interactions, direct harvest (eggs and adults), and climate change. For the above reasons, we propose to list the Southwest Indian DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of the high nesting abundance and geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Indian DPS The range of the North Indian DPS begins at the border of Somalia and Kenya north into the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and east to the Gulf of Mannar off the southern tip of India and includes a major portion of India’s southeastern coast up to Andra Pradesh. The southern and eastern boundaries are the equator (0°) and 84° E., respectively, which intersect in the southeast corner of the range of the DPS. It is bordered by the following countries (following the water bodies from west to east): Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka (Figure 2). Nesting is concentrated primarily in the northern and western region of the range of the North Indian DPS from the Arabian Peninsula to the PakistaniIndian border, with smaller but significant nesting colonies occurring in Sri Lanka, India’s Lakshadweep Island group, and the Red Sea. Nesting in the Arabian Gulf occurs in low numbers. Seagrass beds are extensive within the range of the DPS, although a comprehensive understanding of juvenile and adult foraging areas is lacking. There are extensive foraging areas in the Arabian Gulf, on the coasts of Oman and Yemen, Gulf of Aden, and in the Red Sea (Ross and Barwani, 1982; Salm, 1991; Salm and Salm, 2001). Barr al Hickman, along the Sahil al Jazit coastline in Oman, is one of the most important known foraging grounds for green turtles. Although development of dense seagrass beds is limited seasonally due to monsoons, the Arabian Sea coast’s foraging areas are extensive (Jupp et al., 1996 as cited in Ferreira et al., 2006). Juvenile green turtles have been sighted and captured year-round in the lagoons in Agatti and Kavaratti. These Lakshadweep lagoons are known to be important developmental habitat for green turtles in this DPS (Tripathy et al., 2002; Tripathy et al., 2006). Thirty-eight total nesting sites were identified by the SRT, some being individual beaches and others representing multiple nesting beaches, although nesting data is more than a decade old for the vast majority of these sites. Nonetheless, our best estimates indicate that, of the 38 sites, two have >10,000 nesting females (Ras Sharma, PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 XI. North Indian DPS E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15304 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Yemen; 18,000 (PERSGA/GEF, 2004) and Ras Al Hadd, Oman; 16,184 (Ross, 1979; AlKindi et al., 2008)); one has 5,001–10,000 nesting females (Kamgar Beach at Ormara, Pakistan; 6,000 (Groombridge et al., 1988)); five have 1,001–5,000 nesting females (Saudi Arabian Gulf Islands; 2,410 (AlMerghani et al., 2000; Pilcher, 2000); north coast of Ras Al Hadd, Oman; 1,875 (Salm et al., 1993); Ra’s Jifan to Ra’s Jibsh, Oman; 1,500 (Ross, 1979; AlKindi et al., 2008); Masirah Island, Oman; 1,125 (Grobler et al., 2001); and Gujarat, India; 1,125 (Sunderraj et al., 2006a, 2006b; K. Shanker pers. comm., 2013); 15 sites have 101–500 nesting females; 10 have fewer than 50; and one is unquantified. The largest site, Ras Sharma in Yemen, accounts for 33 percent of the nesting females. Daran Beach, Jiwani, Pakistan, with an estimated 371 nesting females (Waqas et al., 2011), and Zabargard Island, Egypt, with an estimated 444 nesting females (Hanafy, 2012; El-Sadek et al., 2013), are the only sites for which 10 or more years of recent data are available for annual nesting female abundance (the standards for representing trends in bar plot in this report). It is difficult to ascertain any trend from these data. No sites met the standards for PVA. However, some other sites were examined, with caveats, as follows. Nesting at Ras Al Hadd appears to have increased from approximately 6,000 females nesting each year for the period 1977 to 1979 (Ross and Barwani, 1982) through the late 1980s (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989), to the estimate of 16,184 nesting females, as calculated from 21,578 nests found in 2007 (AlKindi et al., 2008). Declines are evident at Hawkes Bay and Sandspit, Pakistan, where a mean of approximately 1,300 nests were deposited annually from 1981 to 1985 (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989) and a mean of approximately 600 nests were laid from 1994 to 1997 (Asrar, 1999). At Gujarat, India, 866 nests were deposited in 1981 (Bhaskar, 1984) and 461 nests in 2000 (Sunderraj et al., 2006); however, because there are only two data points, it is not possible to determine a trend. At Ras Sharma, counts of nightly nesting females during peak nesting season in 1966 and 1972 (30–40 females; Hirth, 1968; Hirth and Hollingsworth, 1973) versus the same index during the peak of the 1999 nesting season (15 females; Saad, 1999) are suggestive of a decline. Again the lack of multiple-year data sets for both Gujarat and Ras Sharma preclude trend assessment. With regard to spatial structure, only one stock from this DPS (in Saudi VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Arabia) has been characterized genetically based on limited sampling; however, it was found to be very distinct from other nesting sites elsewhere in the Indian Ocean based on mtDNA analysis. There are no studies of foraging grounds within the range of the North Indian DPS to provide information on the distribution or the mixing of turtles outside of this DPS. A few flipper tag recoveries have been reported with no reported recoveries outside of the range of the North Indian DPS. Adult females from Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Oman were satellite tagged and tracked during post-nesting migrations, and all remained within the range of the North Indian DPS. The satellite telemetry data for nesting females in Sri Lanka provided some information on possible foraging locations which were within the inshore waters of southern Sri Lanka and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, although sample size was limited (Richardson et al., 2013). Satellite telemetry for nesting females in Kuwait verified nesting in Qaru Island. These turtles migrated to the shallow seas in Saudi Arabia (Rees et al., 2013). With regard to diversity and resilience, the demography of green turtles in the North Indian DPS appears to vary among nesting assemblages, suggesting a complex population structuring in the North Indian DPS. The population is moderately dispersed within the range of the North Indian DPS, although the greatest nesting is concentrated in the northern and western region of the DPS’s range, with about 72 percent of the nesting concentrated in Oman and Yemen. The nesting season varies widely within the range of the DPS. The peak nesting season in Ras Sharma, Yemen is July, in Gujarat, India, it is from August to March (Sunderraj et al., 2006), and in Oman, nesting occurs year-round. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Indian DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone One of the largest green turtle nesting populations within this DPS is concentrated on the nesting beaches of Ras Al Hadd, Oman (Ross, 1979). Ras Al Hadd, Ras al Jinz, and the numerous smaller nesting beaches south of it are protected from development as part of the Ras Al Hadd Nature Reserve. However, upland light pollution is negatively impacting these otherwise suitable nesting habitats (E. Possardt, USFWS, pers. comm., 2013). The most PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 important green turtle nesting beaches in Yemen fall within the Ras Sharma Protected Area, and this nesting habitat is secure from beach development threats. Light pollution is increasing near the Karan Island, Saudi Arabia site from oil rig developments, but the impact on hatchlings and nesting females is unknown (J. Miller, Biological Research and Education Consultants, pers. comm., 2013). At Ras Baridi, one of the main nesting beaches in Saudi Arabia, uncontrolled particulate emissions from a large cement factory has coated the beaches at times and poses a threat to hatchlings because they are unable to emerge from the nest due to the hardened sand (PERSGA/GEF, 2004; Pilcher, 1999). b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Trawling occurs throughout much of the range of the North Indian DPS and has the potential to destroy bottom habitat in these areas. Marine pollution, including direct contamination and structural habitat degradation, affects green turtle neritic and oceanic habitat. The most dramatic example of the threats to sea turtles and their habitat from oil pollution in the region is the Gulf War oil spill in the Arabian Gulf in 1991, which is estimated to be the largest oil spill in history at the time of the 2010 report (ABC, 2010). In the Arabian Gulf, extensive seagrass beds provide important foraging sites for green turtles within waters of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, but these are being degraded and lost from the continual threat of dredging, siltation, and land reclamation (Pilcher, 2000, 2006; Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005; Abdulqader, 2008; Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008). In the waters surrounding the Lakshadweep islands in India, there exist high densities of green turtles that, without the natural level of control from the top predators such as tiger sharks, can cause an increase in grazing pressure and reduce the amount of healthy seagrass beds available (Kelkar et al., 2013). In summary, we find that the North Indian DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices. Beach and marine pollution are an increasing threat to this DPS. 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Directed take of eggs and turtles by humans occurs at the primary green E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules turtle nesting beaches and in waters off of Saudi Arabia (Al-Merghani et al., 1996; Pilcher, 2000), Yemen (K. Nasher, Sana’a University, pers. comm., 2013), Oman (R. Baldwin, Five Oceans LLC, pers. comm., 2013), Djibouti and Somalia (PERSGA 2001; van de Elst, 2006; Galair, 2009; van de Giessen, 2011; Witsen, 2012), Eritrea (Howe et al., 2004; Pilcher, 2006; Teclemariam et al., 2009), the Islamic Republic of Iran (Mobaraki, 2004; 2007; 2011), India (Sunderraj et al., 2006), and Sri Lanka (Rajakaruna et al., 2009; Turtle Conservation Project, 2009). Directed take of nesting females is also still common at nesting beaches in Yemen (K. Nasher, Sana’a University, pers. comm., 2013). In spite of wildlife protection laws, green turtles are still killed opportunistically for food in Oman (R. Baldwin, Five Oceans LLC, pers. comm., 2013). Illegal and legal capture of sea turtles and the collection of turtle eggs is fairly widespread in the Djibouti and Somalia region of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, and turtle meat, oil and eggs are an important source of subsidiary food for artisanal fishers (PERSGA, 2001; van de Elst, 2006; Galair, 2009; van de Giessen, 2011; Witsen, 2012). Harvesting of sea turtle eggs and meat for consumption by local communities and fishers occurs at a subsistence level in Eritrea (Howe et al., 2004; Pilcher, 2006; Teclemariam et al., 2009); however, the pressure on green turtle populations is reported to be high because they are prized for their meat products (Teclemariam et al., 2009). Egg harvesting has also been reported as a threat impacting green turtles in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with eggs being used for both consumption (in some cases as an aphrodisiac) and for use in traditional medicines (Mobaraki, 2004; 2007; 2011). In spite of wildlife protection laws, green turtles are still killed opportunistically for trade in the Bay of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka (Bhupathy and Saravanan, 2006). In India, green turtle export was banned in the 1980s; however, subsistence harvesting continues (Bhupathy and Saravanan, 2006). An increase in the number of green turtles killed by fishers has been reported in Agatti Island, Lakshadweep, India. The cause for the killing has been linked to increases in green turtles within the area. The perception is that green turtles damage fishing gear and overgraze seagrass thereby reducing catch levels (Arthur et al., 2013). In summary, current legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles throughout the range of the North Indian DPS for human consumption VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 persists as a threat to this DPS. The harvest of nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green turtle populations in many areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult abundance and egg production. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation The prevalence of FP in the North Indian DPS is not known. Predation of hatchlings and eggs by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes arabica) is common at the Ras al Jinz, Oman green turtle nesting beach (Mendonca et al., 2010), and ¸ depredation by feral dogs has been identified as a major threat at sea turtle nesting beaches in Pakistan (Asrar, 1999; Firdous, 2001) and the main green turtle nesting beach at Ras Sharma (Stanton, 2008). On two Egyptian Red Sea beaches (Ras Honkorab and Om AlAbath beaches, which are both within Wadi Gimal National Park limits), predation is reported to be very high with only a few nests surviving (Mancini, 2012). The most common predators observed on these two beaches in Egypt were desert foxes (V. zerda) and dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), but ghost crabs were regularly observed near nests as well. In Qatar, depredation of eggs and hatchlings by foxes has been identified as a key source of turtle mortality (Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005; Pilcher, 2006). Along the beaches of Gujarat in India, dogs, jackals, monitor lizards, crabs, crows, and possibly hyenas and feral pigs depredate nests and eat hatchings (Sunderraj et al., 2006). Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms There are several international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the North Indian DPS, and nearly all countries lining the North Indian DPS have some level of national legislation directed at sea turtle protection. The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In addition, at least 14 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the North Indian DPS. Within the last decade, since the establishment of the Jeddah Convention (The Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Environment), there is more of an PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15305 effort to strengthen participation in international and regional agreements (PERSGA, 2010). The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. The overall effectiveness and enforcement of these laws varies among the countries and relies on each country’s priorities. Often the enforcement of these laws is done in collaboration with non-governmental agencies such as HEPCA in the Red Sea (http://www.hepca.org/). Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green turtles are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS with some countries having no regulation in place. Our Status Review reported no widespread regulations for the gill net and trawl fisheries to address the threat of bycatch. The Status Review revealed a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to address coastal development, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Sea turtle bycatch from gill nets, trawls, and longline fisheries is a significant cause of sea turtle mortality for the North Indian DPS, although there are fewer bycatch data than for other regions of the world (Wright and Mohanty, 2002; Project GloBAL, 2007; Bourjea et al., 2008; Abdulqader, 2010; Wallace et al., 2010). The magnitude of trawl, gill net, and longline fisheries within the range of the North Indian DPS is great with no substantive sea turtle protection measures in place to reduce sea turtle bycatch mortality. Along the coast of Ras Al Hadd, one of the densest nesting beaches of this DPS, fishery related mortality is particularly high where green turtles are incidentally caught in fishing gear (Salm, 1991). i. Gill Net Fisheries Gill nets are widely deployed and used throughout the region and known to kill thousands of sea turtles in some regions (Project GloBAL, 2007). Two member Indian Ocean Tuna Commission parties, Iran and Kenya, alone reported the use of 12,023 gill nets in the Indian Ocean in 2012. In Lakshadweep and Tamil Nadu, India, the most common net fisheries (i.e., gill net, shore seine, anchor net and drag nets) are known to incidentally catch green turtles (Tripathy et al., 2006; Bhupathy and Saravanan, 2006). E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15306 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Incidental capture of sea turtles in fishing nets (presumably in gill nets or set nets) has been identified as the main cause of mortality of juvenile green turtles within Iranian and the United Arab Emirates foraging areas (Mobaraki, 2007; Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008). In Qatar, entrapment of turtles in fishing nets has been identified as a key source of mortality (Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005). ii. Trawl Fisheries Shrimp trawling occurs in many countries throughout the range of the North Indian DPS including Pakistan, India, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. In Yemen, trawling is believed to be a significant threat to sea turtles, mainly hawksbill and greens; however, no data are available (Bourjea et al., 2008). Pakistan and India require the use of TEDs to meet the requirements of U.S. Public Law 101–162, section 609 for exporting shrimp to the United States, but the level of compliance is unclear (E. Possardt, USFWS, pers. obs. 2013). Nowhere else within the range of the North Indian DPS are TEDs being used and it can be assumed that significant sea turtle bycatch occurs. One documented assessment of the impact of trawling on sea turtles in this region is from Bahrain where trawls were reported to capture over 300 sea turtles annually, mostly greens (Abdulqader and Miller, 2012; Abdulqader, 2010). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 b. Vessel Strikes Boat strikes have been identified as a major cause of sea turtle mortality in the United Arab Emirates (Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008) and Qatar (Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005). Boat strikes of sea turtles also have been identified as a regular occurrence in Iran and seem to be increasing in some areas (Mobaraki, 2011). Boat strikes are undoubtedly a regular occurrence throughout the Arabian Gulf and other important green turtle foraging grounds within the range of the North Indian DPS and, cumulatively, are likely significant, but quantification is lacking. c. Beach Driving Beach driving by fishers who haul and launch boats from Ras al Jinz beach in Oman is highly problematic, and hatchling turtles are likely being caught in ruts, struck or run over. However, no assessment has been conducted to determine the extent of impacts on nesting turtles and hatchlings (E. Possardt, USFWS, pers. comm., 2013). d. Pollution Pollution has been identified as a main threat to sea turtles in Iran (Mobaraki, 2007) and Pakistan (Firdous, VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 2001); however, no specific information about the type of pollution was provided. In Sri Lanka, Kapurusinghe (Kapurusinghe, 2006) stated that polluted inland water flows into Beira Lake and subsequently the sea, and that garbage, including polythene and plastics, dumped on beaches in some areas is washed into the sea, where it can be lethal to sea turtles. In Gujarat, India, the increase in ports and shipping traffic results in problems from oil spills, garbage, and other pollutants such as fertilizers and cement (Surderraj et al., 2006). e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Similar to other areas of the world, climate change and sea level rise have the potential to affect green turtles in the North Indian DPS. Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. In addition, cyclones such as those occurring in consecutive years in 1998 and 1999 in Kachchch, India, cause severe erosion of the nesting beach (Surderraj et al., 2006) and, when combined with the effects of sea level rise, may have increased cumulative impacts in the future. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). Within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch (longline, gill net, and trawl fishing) occurs throughout the range of the DPS and is a significant threat to this DPS. In addition, pollution, vessel strikes, climate change and natural disasters are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the North Indian DPS In 2012, the IOTC began requiring its 31 contracting Parties to report sea turtle bycatch and to use safe handling and release techniques for sea turtles on longline vessels. The IOTC and IOSEA also recently completed an ‘‘Ecological PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Risk Assessment and Productivity— Susceptibility Analysis of sea turtles overlapping with fisheries in the IOTC region.’’ One conclusion was that green turtles account for 50 88 percent of artisanal and commercial gill nets bycatch. Two methods of estimating total bycatch were used, and resulted in an annual gill net bycatch estimate of 29,488 sea turtles within the IOTC region. While conservation efforts for the North Indian DPS are extensive and expanding, they still remain inadequate to ensure the long-term viability of the population. Efforts have been largely focused on the nesting beaches, and there are only recent efforts underway to understand the extent of green turtle interactions with gill nets and trawlers and the resulting cumulative effects from bycatch—one of the major threats to this DPS. Concerted efforts to identify and protected critical foraging grounds is also lacking. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Indian DPS The North Indian DPS has a high level of green turtle nesting abundance with two of the largest nesting assemblages of green turtles in the world nesting in Yemen and Oman. The North Indian DPS also has expansive, largely undeveloped nesting beaches, and many of these beaches are protected from development as nationally designated reserves or protected areas, although threats still remain. The North Indian DPS also features extensive coastal seagrass beds distributed throughout the region, which provide abundant foraging grounds for this species. Nesting beaches are distributed broadly throughout the region. Coastal development, beachfront lighting, fishing practices, and marine pollution at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds are continuing concerns across the DPS. Current illegal harvest of green turtles and eggs for human consumption is a continuing but limited threat to this DPS. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the North Indian DPS, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from gill nets and trawl fisheries, and the cumulative mortality from these fisheries is probably the greatest threat to this DPS. Additional threats from boat strikes, which are becoming more common, and expected impacts of climate change, will negatively affect this DPS. Conservation efforts are substantial but uneven in the range of the North Indian DPS and focused almost entirely on nesting beaches. The ability for some countries to sustain or develop needed E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules conservation programs in the context of political instability within the region is of concern. Further, our analysis did not consider the scenario in which current laws or regulatory mechanisms were not continued. Given the conservation dependence of the species, without mechanisms in place to continue conservation efforts in this DPS, some threats could increase and population trends could be affected. For the above reasons, we propose to list the North Indian DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of high nesting abundance in protected areas; however, the continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 XII. East Indian-West Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS The western boundary for the range of the East Indian–West Pacific DPS is 84° E. longitude from 40° S. to where it coincides with India near Odisha, northeast along the shoreline and into the West Pacific Ocean to include Taiwan extending east at 41° N. to 146° E. longitude, south and west to 4.5° N., 129° E., then south and east to West Papua in Indonesia and the Torres Straits in Australia. The southern boundary is 40° S. latitude, encompassing the Gulf of Carpentaria (Figure 2). Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed throughout the range of the East Indian–West Pacific DPS, with important nesting sites occurring in Northern Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak Turtle Islands), Peninsular Malaysia, and the Philippine Turtle Islands. The in-water range of the East Indian-West Pacific DPS is similarly widespread with shared foraging sites throughout the range of the DPS. The largest nesting site lies within Northern Australia, which supports approximately 25,000 nesting females (Limpus, 2009). Nonetheless, populations are substantially depleted from historical levels. There are 58 known nesting sites, although we note that the nesting female estimates for many of these sites are over a decade old. The largest, Wellesley Group, lies in northern Australia and supports approximately 25,000 nesting females (EPA Queensland Turtle Conservation Project unpublished data cited in Limpus, 2009). Five sites have 5,001–10,000 nesting females: Bilang-Bilangan, Indonesia (7,156; Reischig et al., 2012); Sabah Turtle Island Park, Malaysia (7,011; de Silva, 1982; Basintal, 2002; P. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Bastinal pers. comm., 2011); Ningaloo, North West Cape, Australia (6,269; Prince, 2003; Markovina, 2008; Bool et al., 2009; Gourlay et al., 2010; Kelliher et al., 2011); Baguan Island, Philippines (5,874; Pawikan Conservation Project, 2013); and Pangumbahan, Indonesia (5,199; Muhara and Herlina, 2012). Seven sites have 1,001–5,000 nesting females: Sangalaki (2,740; Reischig et al., 2012), Enu (2,048; Dethmers, 2010), Mataha (1,652; Reischig et al., 2012), and Belambangan Island, Indonesia (1,736; Dermawan, 2002); Terranganu (1,875; Chan, 2010) and Sarawak Turtle Island, Malaysia (1,155; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989; Chan 2006; Chan, 2010); and Lihiman, Philippines (1,217; Pawikan Conservation Project, 2013). Eight sites have 501–1,000 nesting females, 30 have <500 nesting females, and seven are unquantified. Green turtle populations within the range of the East Indian-West Pacific DPS have experienced apparent declines at some nesting sites, and increases at others in the past several decades. For instance, in Southeast Asia, data suggest that populations have declined in the Gulf of Thailand, Vietnam, and the Berau Islands, Meru Betiri National Park, Pangumbahan, Thamihla Kyun, and perhaps Enu Island, all in Indonesia, although the lack of recent and/or multiple year data prevents an assessment of the current trends at these sites. At Sipadan, Sarawak and Terengganu in Malaysia, nesting appears to be stable, although Terengganu might be decreasing. Nesting has remained stable in the Philippine Turtle Islands and may have increased at the Sabah Turtle Islands, Malaysia. In Western Australia, data are not sufficient to draw any conclusions regarding long-term trends, although these sites, together with the Wellesley Group in Northern Australia (the largest nesting site), may constitute the most important green turtle nesting concentration in the Indian Ocean. When examining spatial structure for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, the SRT examined three lines of evidence: genetic data, flipper and satellite tagging, and demographic data. Genetic sampling in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS has occurred at 22 nesting sites. There appears to be a complex population structure, even though there are gaps in sampling relative to distribution. Overall, this region is dominated by a few common and widespread haplotypes and has varying levels of spatial structure characterized by the presence of rare/unique haplotypes at most nesting sites. There is significant population substructuring. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15307 Tagging and tracking studies have been geared to studying internesting migrations, and defining the range of internesting habitats and post-nesting migrations. Green turtles that were satellite tracked from Pulau Redang, Terengganu indicate migrations to the South China Sea and Sulu Sea areas (Liew, 2002). Cheng (2000) reported movements of eight post-nesting green turtles from Wan-An Island, Taiwan that were satellite tracked, and which distributed widely on the continental shelf to the east of mainland China. Satellite telemetry studies conducted from 2000 to 2003 demonstrated that the green turtles nesting at Taipin Tao are a shared natural resource among the nations in the southern South China Sea. Female green turtles tracked in the same area travelled long distances in a post-nesting migration, ending in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines and the Malaysia Peninsula with distances that ranged from 456 to 2,823 km (Charuchinda et al., 2002) and in the coastal region of Japan (Wang, 2006). Waayers and Fitzpatrick (2013) found that in the Kimberly region of Australia, the green turtle appears to have a broad migration distribution and numerous potential foraging areas. Mixed stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that green turtles from multiple nesting beach origins commonly mix at feeding areas in foraging grounds across northern Australia (Dethmers et al., 2010) and Malaysia (Jensen, 2010) with higher contributions from nearby large nesting sites. There is evidence of low frequency contribution from nesting sites outside the range of the DPS at some foraging areas. The demography of green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS varies throughout the nesting assemblages. This variation in parameters such as mean nesting size, remigration interval, internesting interval, clutch size, hatching success, and clutch frequency suggests a high level of population structuring in this DPS. With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting and foraging areas are widespread within the range of this DPS, providing a level of population resilience through habitat diversity. The nesting season varies throughout the range of the DPS, with nesting from June to August in the inner Gulf of Thailand, peak nesting from March to July on Derawan Island (Charuchinda and Monanunsap, 1998; Abe et al., 2003; Aureggi et al., 2004; Adnyana et al., 2008), year-round nesting in Thameela Island, Myanmar and Aru, Indonesia (although peaking from November to March; (Dethmers, 2010; Lwin, 2009), E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15308 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules and peak nesting from November to March in Aru, Indonesia (Dethmers, 2010), Sukamade, southeastern Java (Arinal, 1997), Barrow Island, and western Australia (Pendoley, 2005). Nesting occurs on both insular and continental sites, yielding a degree of nesting diversity. Limited information also suggests that there are two types of nesting females within the DPS: Those with high site fidelity which nest regularly at one site, such as the Sabah Turtle Islands; and those with low site fidelity such as at Ishigaki Island which select different nesting sites allowing for increased diversity and resilience for the DPS (Basintal, 2002; Abe et al., 2003). B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Indian-West Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 a. Terrestrial Zone In the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, the majority of green turtle nesting beaches are extensively eroded. Nesting habitat is degraded due to a variety of human activities largely related to tourism. Coastal development and associated artificial lighting, sand mining, and marine debris affect the amount and quality of habitat that is available to nesting green turtles. However, there are sanctuaries and parks throughout the region where nests are protected to various degrees. Most of the beaches in Vietnam have a large amount of marine debris, which includes glass, plastics, polystyrenes, floats, nets, and light bulbs. This debris can entrap turtles and impede nesting activity. In Australia, the majority of green turtle nesting along the beaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria occurs outside of the protection of the National Park. Other minor nesting sites lie within the protected lands of the Indigenous Protected Areas (Limpus, 2009). In Western Australia, the impacts to nesting and hatchling green turtles by independent turtle watchers as well as off-road vehicles has increased in the Ningaloo region as the number of visitors has increased over the years (Waayers, 2010). Nesting turtles and hatchlings are routinely disturbed by people with their cars and flashlights (Kelliher et al., 2011). Burn-off flares associated with oil and gas production on the Northwest shelf of Australia are in sufficiently close proximity to the green turtle nesting beaches to possibly cause hatchling disorientation (Pendoley, 2000) VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Green turtles forage in the seagrass beds around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. Some of these seagrass beds in the South Andaman group are no longer viable foraging habitat because of siltation and degradation due to waste disposal, a byproduct of the rapid increase in tourism (Andrews, 2000). Green turtles that forage off the waters of the Bay of Bengal in south Bangladesh also face depleted foraging habitat from divers collecting seagrass for commercial purposes and by anchoring of commercial ships, ferries, and boats in this habitat (Sarkar, 2001). In the nearshore waters of Thailand, seagrass beds are partially protected since fishing gear such as trawls are prohibited (Charuchinda et al., 2002). In the waters surrounding the islands of Togean and Banggai in Indonesia, the use of dynamite and potassium cyanide are common, and this type of fishing method destroys green turtle foraging habitat (Surjadi and Anwar, 2001). Seagrass beds are found throughout the nearshore areas of Vietnam’s mainland coast and islands (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003). Destructive fishing practices have been and possibly continue to be a major threat to this habitat in 21 of Vietnam’s 29 provinces (Asia Development Bank, 1999 as cited in the Ministry of Fisheries, 2003) and in the waters of Indonesia (Cruz, 2002; Dethmers, 2010). Although these destructive fishing practices are prohibited by legislation passed in 1989, enforcement may not be sufficient to prevent these practices from occurring. Green turtle foraging habitat is under increased threat from decreased water quality through river run-off and development (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003). In summary, within Factor A, we find that coastal development, beachfront lighting, erosion resulting from sand mining, and sea level rise, are a significant threat to a large portion of this DPS. The extent of fishing practices, depleted seagrass beds, and marine pollution is broad with high levels occurring in waters where high numbers of green turtles are known to forage and migrate are significant threats to the persistence of this DPS. 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes The green turtle populations within this DPS have been declining throughout their range. Populations throughout Asia have been depleted by long-term harvests of eggs and adults, and by by-catch in the ever-growing PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 fisheries (Shanker and Pilcher, 2003). On St. Martins Island, Bangladesh, overexploitation has brought the nesting turtles to near extinction (Hasan, 2009). Nesting females continue to be killed in countries within Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean (Fleming, 2001; Fretey, 2001; Cruz, 2002). Despite substantial declines in green turtle nesting numbers, egg harvest remains legal in several of the countries within the range of this DPS. Some countries have protections in place; however, harvest continues due to lack of enforcement. In Myanmar and Thailand, hatcheries are set up to protect a portion of the eggs. However, these hatcheries retain hatchlings for several days for tourism purposes, thus reducing the likelihood of hatchling survival (Charuchinda et al., 2002). Turtle nesting numbers have decreased in peninsular Malaysia and the Philippines due to more than 40 years of overharvesting of eggs and females (Siow and Moll, 1982; de Silva, 1982; Limpus, 1995; Cruz, 2002). In order to provide some protection for turtles, all three Sabah Turtle Islands were acquired and protected by the Sabah State Government in the 1970s (de Silva, 1982). After more than 20 years of conservation efforts (1970– 1990), the population had still not shown signs of recovery (Limpus et al., 2001). Local islanders in Indonesia have traditionally considered turtles, especially green turtles, as part of their diet (Hitipeuw and Pet-Soede, 2004 as cited in FAO, 2004). Illegal egg harvesting continues, but there is an increased effort to fully protect green turtles from harvest on the islands of Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha in Indonesia (Reischig et al., 2012). Despite legal protections for sea turtles, at-sea poaching of turtles is a continuing problem in Southeast Asia, especially by Hainanese and Vietnamese vessels. The poaching occurs in a wideranging area of the region, and has moved as turtle stocks have been depleted, with vessels being apprehended off Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines (Pilcher et al., 2009 as cited in Lam et al., 2011). In Australia, green turtles are harvested by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders for subsistence purposes. There is a widespread use of motorized aluminum boats in contrast to the traditional dugout canoes powered by paddles or sail. The total harvest of green turtles by indigenous people across northern and Western Australia is probably several thousand annually (Kowarsky, 1982; Henry and Lyle, 2003 as cited in Limpus, 2009). E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 The indigenous harvest of eggs may be unsustainable in northeast Arnhem Land (Kennett and Yunupingu, 1998). Current legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles occur throughout the East Indian-West Pacific DPS and persists as a significant threat to this DPS. The harvest of nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green turtle populations in many areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult abundance and reducing egg production. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation FP has been found in green turtles in Indonesia (Adnyana et al., 1997), Japan (Y. Matsuzawa, Japanese Sea Turtle Association, pers. comm., 2004), the Philippines (Nalo-Ochona, 2000), Western Australia (Raidal and Prince, 1996; Aguirre and Lutz, 2004), and on PhuQuoc in Vietnam (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003). Epidemiological studies indicate rising incidence of this disease (George, 1997), thus the above list will likely grow in the future. The best available data suggest that current nest and hatchling predation on the East Indian-West Pacific DPS is prevalent and may be an increasing threat without nest protection and predatory control programs in place. Depredation of nests by feral animals is also widespread in many South Asian areas (Sunderraj et al., 2001; Islam, 2002). Nest predation by feral pigs and dogs is a major threat on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India (Fatima et al., 2011). Monitor lizards are also a significant and widespread predator in some areas (Andrews et al., 2006). Dog predation is a major threat to the green turtle nests on Sonadia Island in Bangladesh (Islam et al., 2011). Jackals, foxes, wild boars, and monitor lizards also predate green turtle nests and hatchlings along the beaches of Bangladesh, and dogs also kill or injure nesting females in Bangladesh (Andrews et al., 2006). Lizards and ghost crabs are the natural predators of green turtle nests in Thailand (Chantrapornsyl, 1993). In Malaysia, crabs (Ocypode spp.) predate green turtle eggs (Ali and Ibrahim, 2000), and gold-ringed cat snakes or mangrove snakes (Boigadendrophila), (Asiatic) reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), monitor lizards (Varanus sp.), and house mice (Mus musculus) predate hatchlings (Hendrickson, 1958). Monitor lizards, crabs, and ants predate eggs and hatchlings on the beaches of Vietnam (as cited in ‘‘Sea Turtle MigrationTracking and Coastal Habitat Education Program—An Educator’s Guide’’ http:// www.ioseaturtles.org/Education/ seaturtlebooklet.pdf). In Japan, raccoon VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and weasels (Mustela itatsi) are a threat to nests (Kamezaki et al., 2003). In Taiwan, snakes predate the nests (Cheng et al., 2009). On the North West Cape and the beaches of the Ningaloo coast of mainland Australia, a long established feral European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) population historically preyed heavily on eggs and is thought to be responsible for the lower numbers of nesting turtles on the mainland beaches (Baldwin et al., 2003; Kelliher et al., 2011). Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Although conservation efforts to protect some nesting beaches and marine habitat are underway, more widespread and consistent protection is needed. There are at least 16 national and international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. In addition, at least 17 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. However, some regulatory mechanisms, including laws and international treaties, are not realizing their full potential because they are not enforced, or do not apply in all countries occupied by the DPS. Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the countries within this DPS. These are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS. There are some national regulations within this DPS that specially address the harvest of green turtles, while a few regulations are limited in that they only apply to certain size classes, or times of year, or allowed for traditional use. Fishery bycatch throughout the range of the East Indian-West Pacific DPS (see Factor E), as well as anthropogenic threats to nesting beaches and foraging grounds (Factor A) and eggs/turtles and foraging (Factors A, B, C, and E), are substantial. Although national and international governmental and non- PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15309 governmental entities in the East IndianWest Pacific DPS are currently working toward reducing green turtle bycatch as well as egg and turtle harvest, it is unlikely that this source of mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future. This is due to the lack of bycatch reduction in commercial and artisanal fisheries operating within the range of this DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. Beaches and in-water habitat throughout the range of the DPS are under various levels of protection, depending in part on the clarity of regulations and consistency of funding for enforcement. In summary, although regulatory mechanisms are in place that should address direct and incidental take of green turtles within this DPS, these regulatory mechanisms are not implemented throughout the range of this DPS. These mechanisms are not sufficiently implemented to address the direct harvest of green turtles and are insufficient to address the major threat of bycatch which remains a significant risk to this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a significant threat to the survival of green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. Green turtles may be caught in drift and set gill nets, bottom and mid-water trawling, fishing dredges, pound nets and weirs, and haul and purse seines. Bycatch in fisheries using gears such as trawlers, drift nets, and purse seines is thought to be one of the main causes of decline in the green turtle population in Thailand and Malaysia. The rapid expansion of fishing operations is largely responsible for the increase in adult turtle mortality due to bycatch (Settle, 1995). The most used fishing gears in the waters of Thailand are trawling and drift gill nets. Heavy fishing is the main threat to foraging sea turtles (Chan et al., 1988; Chantrapornsyl, 1993; Liew, 2002). Gill nets and set bag nets are the two major fishing gears used in the Bay of Bengal, and green turtles are likely captured during these fishing operations (Hossain and Hoq, 2010). Along the E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15310 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the main type of fishery is gill nets and purse seines with thousands of turtles killed annually by fisheries operations including the shark fishery (Chandi et al., 2012; Shanker and Pilcher, 2003). In 1994, Bhaskar estimated at least 600 green turtles were killed as a result of the shark fishery in this area. Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the large predator fishing industry. Green turtle mortality can be expected to be much higher than that estimated in the 1990s as a result of these current operations (Namboothri et al., 2012). Trawl fishing is also common in Bangladesh. No green turtle stranding information is available to determine the fishery threat level to the green turtle population; however, it is expected to be high as TEDs are not used and the population has declined (Ahmed et al., 2006; Khan et al., 2006). On the Turtle Islands in the Philippines, there have been an increased number of dead turtles as a result of fishing activities, such as shrimp trawlers and demersal nets (Cruz, 2002). One of the main threats to green turtles in Vietnam and Indonesia is the incidental capture from gill and trawl nets and the opportunistic capture by fishers. Hundreds of green turtles are captured by fisheries per year in Vietnam (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003; Hamann et al., 2006a; Dethmers, 2010). In Indonesia, green turtles were recorded as one of the main species caught in the longline fisheries. Trawl gear is still allowed in the Arafura Sea, posing a major threat to green turtles (Dethmers, 2010). Shrimp trawl captures in Indonesia are high because of the limited use of TEDs (Zainudin et al., 2008). The estimated bycatch of the Japanese large-mesh drift net fishery in the North Pacific Ocean in 1990–1991 was 1,501 turtles, of which 248 were estimated to be green turtles (Wetherall et al., 1993). Wetherall et al. (1993) report that the actual mortality of sea turtles taken in the Japanese and Taiwanese large-mesh fisheries may have been between 2,500 and 9,000 per year. b. Marine Debris and Pollution Pollution from oil spills, as well as from agricultural and organic chemicals, is a major threat to the waters used by green turtles in the Bay of Bengal (Sarkar, 2001). The result of human population growth in China has been an increased amount of pollutants in the coastal system. Discharges from untreated sewage have occurred in Xisha Archipelago (Li et al., 2004 as cited in Chan et al., 2007). Concentrations of nine heavy metals VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 (iron, manganese, zinc, copper, lead, nickel, cadmium, cobalt, and mercury) and other trace elements were found in liver, kidney, and muscle tissues of green turtles collected from Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan (Anan et al., 2001). The accumulation of cadmium found in the green turtles is likely due to accumulations of this heavy metal in the plant materials on which they forage (Sakai et al., 2000). In the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, discarded fishing nets have been found to cause a high number of turtle deaths with the majority being green turtles (Chatto et al., 1995). c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). Natural environmental events, such as cyclones and hurricanes, may affect green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. Typhoons have been shown to cause severe beach erosion and negatively affect hatching success at green turtle nesting beaches in Japan, especially in areas already prone to erosion. In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch, particularly from drift net and purse seine fisheries, occur throughout the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, with localized high levels of mortality in waters where juvenile to adult turtles are known to forage and migrate are a persistent risk to this DPS. In addition, vessel collisions, marine pollution, changes likely to result from climate change, and natural disasters are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS There are numerous ongoing conservation efforts in this region. Hatcheries have been set up throughout PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 the region to protect a portion of the eggs laid and prevent complete egg harvesting. In addition, bycatch reduction efforts have been made in some areas, protected areas are established throughout the region, and monitoring, outreach and enforcement efforts have made progress in sea turtle conservation. Despite these conservation efforts, considerable uncertainty in the status of this DPS lies with inadequate efforts to measure bycatch in the region, a short time-series of monitoring on nesting beaches, and missing vital rates data necessary for population assessments. In India, since 1978, the Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank Trust has conducted sea turtle surveys and studies in the islands. In a bilateral agreement, the Governments of the Philippines and Malaysia established The Turtle Island Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA), made up of nine islands (six in the Philippines and three in Malaysia). The TIHPA is one of the world’s major nesting grounds for green turtles. Management of the TIHPA is shared by both countries. One of the nesting beaches for this DPS, Australia’s Dirk Hartog Island, is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and recently became part of Australia’s National Park System. This designation may facilitate monitoring of nesting beaches and enforcement of prohibitions on direct take of green turtles and their eggs. Conservation efforts on nesting beaches have included invasive predator control. Illegal trade of turtle parts continues to be a problem in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. In order to reduce this threat, the Vietnamese Government, with assistance from IUCN, WWF, TRAFFIC and the Danish Government, formulated a Marine Turtle Conservation Action Plan in 2010 to expand awareness to fishers and enforcement officers, and to confiscate sea turtle products (Stiles, 2009; Ministry of Fisheries 2010). The level of effectiveness and progress of this program is not known. TEDs are now in use in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei, expanded by initiatives of the South East Asian Fisheries Development Center (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004). In 2000, the use of TEDs in the Northern Australian Prawn Fishery was made mandatory. Prior to the use of TEDs, this fishery took between 5,000 and 6,000 sea turtles as bycatch annually, with a mortality rate estimated to be 40 percent (Poiner and Harris, 1996). Since the mandatory use of TEDs has been in effect, the annual bycatch of sea turtles in the Northern E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Australian Prawn Fishery has dropped to fewer than 200 sea turtles per year, with a mortality rate of approximately 22 percent (based on recent years). Initial progress has been made to measure the threat of incidental capture of sea turtles in other artisanal and commercial fisheries in the Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean (Lewison et al., 2004; Limpus, 2009); however, the data remain inadequate for population assessments. As in other DPSs, persistent marine debris poses entanglement and ingestion hazards to green turtles. In 2009, Australia’s Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts published a threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life (http:// www.environment.gov.au/system/files/ resources/d945695b-a3b9-4010-91b4914efcdbae2f/files/marine-debris-threatabatement-plan.pdf). D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS The East Indian-West Pacific DPS is characterized by a relatively large geographic area with widespread nesting reported in 58 different locations throughout the range of the DPS. Although the numerous nesting sites have relatively high abundance of nesting females, decades of harvesting and habitat degradation have led to a drastic decline in the sea turtle populations within this DPS in the last century. Population trends at many of the higher abundance rookeries are decreasing, though there appears to be an increasing trend on Sabah in Malaysia and on Baguan in the Philippines, presumably due to effective conservation efforts. Continued harvest, coastal development, beachfront lighting, erosion, fishing practices, and marine pollution both at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds are all continuing concerns across the range of the DPS. Harvest of turtles and eggs for human consumption continues as a high threat to this East Indian-West Pacific DPS. Coastal development, largely due to tourism, is an increasing threat in many areas. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the range of the DPS, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from pelagic longline, set net, and trawl fisheries. Additional threats due to climate change, such as loss of habitat due to sea level rise and increased ratio of female to male turtles, negatively impact this DPS. Conservation efforts have been effective in a few areas but are lacking or not effective in most. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 For the above reasons, we propose to list the East Indian-West Pacific DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of high nesting abundance and geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. XIII. Central West Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central West Pacific DPS The range of the Central West Pacific DPS has a northern boundary of 41° N. latitude and is bounded by 41° N., 169° E. in the northeast corner, going southeast to 9° N., 175° W., then southwest to 13° S., 171° E., west and slightly north to the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea, along the northern shore of the Island of New Guinea to West Papua in Indonesia, northwest to 4.5° N., 129° E. then to West Papua in Indonesia, then north to 41° N., 146° E. It encompasses the Republic of Palau (Palau), FSM, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Guam, the CNMI, and a portion of Japan (Ogasawara; Figure 2). Green turtle nesting occurs at low levels throughout the geographic distribution of the DPS (approximately 51 sites), with isolated locations having higher nesting activity. Only two populations are known to have >1,000 nesting turtles, with all the rest having fewer than 400 nesting females, for a total number of known nesting females of approximately 6,500. The highest numbers of females nesting in this DPS are located in Gielop and Iar Island, Ulithi Atoll, Yap, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM; 1,412) or 22 percent of the population 2013); Chichijima (1,301) and Hahajima (394), Ogasawara, Japan; Bikar Atoll, Marshall Islands (300); and Merir Island, Palau (441; (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Bureau of Marine Resources, 2005; Barr, 2006; Palau Bureau of Marine Resources, 2008; Maison et al., 2010; H. Suganuma, Everlasting Nature of Asia, pers. comm., 2012; J. Cruce, Ocean Society, pers. comm., 2013). There are numerous other populations in the FSM, Solomon Islands, Palau, Guam, and the CNMI. Historical baseline nesting information in general is not widely available in this region, but exploitation and trade of green turtles throughout the region is well-known (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989). Green turtles departing nesting grounds within the range of this DPS travel throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Green turtles are found in coastal waters in low to moderate densities at foraging areas throughout PO 00000 Frm 00041 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15311 the range of the DPS. Aerial sea turtle surveys show that an in-water population exists around Guam (Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, 2011). In-water green turtle density in the Marianas Archipelago is low and mostly restricted to juveniles (Pultz et al., 1999; Kolinski et al., 2005; Kolinski et al., 2006; Palacios, 2012a). In-water information in this DPS overall is particularly limited. There is insufficient long-term and standardized monitoring information to adequately describe abundance and population trends for many areas of the Central West Pacific DPS. The available information suggests a nesting population decrease in some portions of the DPS like the Marshall Islands, or unknown trends in other areas such as Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Marianas, Solomon Islands, or the FSM (Maison et al., 2010). There is only one site for which 15 or more years of recent data are available for annual nesting female abundance, one of the standards for performing a PVA. This is at Chichijima, Japan, one of the major green turtle nesting concentrations in Japan (Horikoshi et al.,1994). Although the PVA has limitations, it shows a continuing upward trend for the population. The population has increased in abundance from a mean of approximately 100 annual nesting females in the late 1970s/early 1980s to a mean of approximately 500 annual nesting females since 2000. Chaloupka et al. (2008a) reports an estimated annual population growth rate of 6.8 percent per year for the Chichijima nesting site. With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central West Pacific has recently improved, but remains challenging given the large number of small islands and atoll nesting sites. Stock structure analysis indicated that nesting sites separated by more than 1,000 km were significantly differentiated from each other while neighboring nesting sites within 500 km showed no genetic differentiation (Dutton et al., 2014). Based on mtDNA analyses, there are four independent stocks within the DPS (Dethmers et al. 2006; Jensen 2010; Dutton et al. 2014). With respect to tagging and telemetry, there are records of turtles flipper tagged in the Philippines nesting in the FSM; a turtle tagged in Japan was recorded nesting in the FSM; turtles tagged in the Japan Archipelago and China were recorded nesting in the Ogasawara islands (Suganuma, pers. comm., Ogasawara Marine Center, Everlasting Nature of Asia, unpublished data); and turtles tagged in the FSM were recaptured in the Philippines, Marshall E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15312 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Islands, and Papua New Guinea (Palau BMR, 2008; Cruce, 2009). Satellite telemetry shows that nesting females migrate to areas both within and outside of the range of the Central West Pacific DPS. For example, satellite tracks show turtles moving from the Mariana Islands to the Philippines and Japan, and others moving from the Chichijima Islands of Ogasawara to the main islands of Japan (Hatase et al., 2006; Japan Fisheries Resource Conservation Association, 1999). Green turtles have also been shown to move from the FSM to the Philippines and to the west (G. Balazs, NMFS, unpublished data; Kolinski, et al., unpublished data.) Demographic data availability is limited and somewhat variable for many nesting sites in the range of this DPS. Variability in parameters such as remigration interval, clutch size, hatching success, and clutch frequency is not separated out regionally within the DPS and, therefore, does not necessarily suggest a high level of population structuring. With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall range of the DPS is relatively widespread, which lends some resilience. However, nesting generally occurs at what appear to be low numbers, except in several locations, and only on islands and atolls throughout the range of the DPS. Nesting information is limited for some areas, but occurs from November to August in Palau; from March through September in the FSM; and May to August in Ogasawara, Japan. Some turtles travel outside the bounds of the range of this DPS, into the East Indian/ West Pacific DPS presumably to forage. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central West Pacific DPS mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone In the Central West Pacific Ocean, some nesting beaches have become severely degraded from a variety of activities. Destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat results from coastal development and construction, placement of barriers to nesting, beachfront lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, sand extraction, beach erosion, beach pollution, removal of native vegetation, and presence of non-native vegetation. Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the insular Pacific and this expansion is exerting increased pressure on limited island resources. The most valuable land on most Pacific islands is often located VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 along the coastline, particularly when it is associated with a sandy beach. For instance, construction (and associated lighting) on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the CNMI, is occurring at a rapid rate in some areas and is resulting in loss or degradation of green turtle nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In the FSM, construction of houses and pig pens on Oroluk beaches in Pohnpei State interferes with turtle nesting by creating barriers to nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Buden, 1999). Nesting habitat destruction is also a major threat to Guam turtles and has resulted mainly from construction and development due to increased tourism (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Project GloBAL, 2009a). Coastal construction is a moderate problem on Majuro Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (NMFS and USFWS, 1998); however, it is unknown to what extent nesting beaches are being affected. On the outer atolls of the Marshall Islands, beach erosion has been aggravated by airfield and dock development, and by urban development on Majuro and Kwajalein Atolls. In the Republic of Palau, increasing nesting habitat degradation from tourism and coastal development has been identified as a threat to sea turtles (Eberdong and Klain, 2008; Isamu and Guilbeaux, 2002), although the extent and significance of the impacts are unknown. Also in the CNMI, the majority of the nesting beaches on Tinian are on military-leased land, where the potential for construction impacts exists (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). Increased public use of nesting beaches is a threat to sea turtle nesting habitat throughout the CNMI. Public use of beaches includes a variety of recreational activities, including picnicking, swimming, surfing, playing sports, scuba diving and snorkeling access (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). Beach driving is a pastime on Saipan and could threaten green turtle nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Palacios, 2012a; Wusstig, 2012). Expected U.S. military expansion plans for this region are likely to include relocation of thousands of military personnel to Guam and increased training exercises in the CNMI (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). In the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, nighttime tourist and resident activity on beaches to view and photograph nesting turtles is a problem, resulting in harassment of nesting turtles and PO 00000 Frm 00042 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 increased aborted nesting attempts (Ishizaki et al., 2011). b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Fishing methods not only incidentally capture green turtles and destroy bottom habitat (including seagrasses) but may also deplete invertebrate and fish populations and thus alter ecosystem dynamics. Dynamite fishing occurs in the FSM (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, 2004) and the Marshall Islands (Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005). Dynamite fishing, as well as use of fish poisons, occurs in Papua New Guinea, although these practices are small scale and relatively isolated (Berdach and Mandeakali, 2004). Coral reefs and seagrass beds within the urban centers of the four states of the FSM (Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae; NMFS and USFWS, 1998) and Saipan have been reported as being degraded by hotels, golf courses, and general tourist activities (Project GloBAL, 2009b), presumably as a result of runoff and other impacts. Coastal development in Guam has resulted in sedimentation, which has damaged Guam’s coral reefs and, presumably, food sources for turtles (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). Coral reefs and seagrass habitat off the lagoon shoreline of the Kwajalein Atoll islands and Majuro Atoll have been degraded by coastal construction, dredging, boat anchoring, and/or eutrophication from sewage and runoff from landfills, grave sites, and pig and chicken pens (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Hay and SablanZebedy, 2005). Dredging and filling as well as sand extraction have contributed to changes to longshore processes and coastal erosion in the Marshall Islands, FSM, Kiribati’s Gilbert Islands chain, and Palau (Smith et al., 1997; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, 2004; Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005; Pacific News Center, 2012). Marine pollution, including direct contamination and structural habitat degradation, can affect green turtle neritic and oceanic habitat. In Palau, environmental contamination in the form of sewage effluent is a problem around Koror State, particularly Malakal Harbor, and nearby urban areas (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In the Solomon Islands, sewage discharges from land and discharges of garbage, bilge water, and other pollutants from ships have been identified as sources of pollution to the coastal and marine environments (Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment Conservation and Meteorology, 2008). Land-based activities, including logging, plantation E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 development, and mining, often cause excessive sedimentation of nearshore waters (Sulu et al., 2000). Environmental contamination was identified as a minor problem in the Marshall Islands in 1998 (NMFS and USFWS, 1998) and around Wake Island (Defense Environmental Network and Information Exchange, undated). Rudrud et al. (2007) found that there is a high probability of green turtles being exposed to toxicants remaining in the Marshall Islands from past wars and weapons testing (e.g., foraging on algae growing on toxic surfaces, resting near irradiated shipwrecks). In summary, we find that the Central West Pacific DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices as considered above in Factor A. Destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat resulting from coastal development and construction, beachfront lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, beach erosion, and pollution are significant threats to the persistence of this DPS. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation The potential effects of FP and endoparasites also exist for green turtles found in the Central West Pacific Ocean, but the impacts to the population are unknown. The loss of eggs to non-human predators is a severe problem in some areas. These predators include domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, and pigs, as well as wild species such as rats, mongoose, birds, monitor lizards, snakes, and crabs, ants, and other invertebrates (Suganuma et al., 1996; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Maturbongs, 2000; Cummings, 2002; Wilson et al., 2004; Cruce, 2008). Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles (often all sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. National protective legislation generally prohibits intentional killing, 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or harassment, possession, trade, or attempts at these; however, a lack of or Educational Purposes inadequate enforcement of these laws Directed take of eggs is a known appears to be pervasive. The following ongoing problem in the Central West countries have laws to protect green Pacific in the CNMI, FSM, Guam, turtles: CNMI, FSM, Guam, Japan Kiribati (Gilbert Islands chain), Papua, (Ogasawara Islands), Kiribati, Marshall Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua, Papua and Palau (Eckert, 1993; Guilbeaux, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and 2001; Hitipeuw and Maturbongs, 2002; United States (Wake Island). In Philip, 2002). In addition to the addition, at least 17 international collection of eggs from nesting beaches, treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms the killing of nesting females continues apply to the conservation of green to threaten the stability of green turtle turtles in the Central West Pacific DPS. populations. Ongoing harvest of nesting These are implemented to various adults has been documented in the degrees throughout the range of the CNMI (Palacios, 2012a), FSM (Cruce, DPS. There are some national 2009), Guam (Cummings, 2002), Papua regulations, within this DPS, that (Hitipeuw and Maturbongs, 2002), specially address the harvest of green Papua New Guinea (Maison et al., 2010), turtles while a few regulations are and Palau (Guilbeaux, 2001). Mortality limited in that they only apply to turtles of turtles in foraging habitats is also of certain sizes, times of years, or allow problematic for recovery efforts. for harvest for tradition use. Ongoing intentional capture of green On December 12, 2008, the Western turtles in their marine habitats has been and Central Pacific Fisheries documented in southern and eastern Commission issued a Conservation and Papua New Guinea (Limpus et al., 2002) Management Measure (2008–03; and the Solomon Islands (D. Broderick, https://www.wcpfc.int/doc/cmm-20081998; Pita and Broderick, 2005). 03/conservation-and-management-seaturtles) to reduce sea turtle mortality Green turtles have long been during fishing operations, collect and harvested for their meat in the report information on fisheries Ogasawara Islands, and records show a interactions with turtles, and encourage rapid decline in the sea turtle safe handling and resuscitation of population between 1880 and 1920 turtles. This measure requires purse (Horikoshi et al., 1994; Ishizaki, 2007). seine vessels to avoid encircling turtles Currently, sea turtle harvest is strictly and to release entangled turtles. It also regulated with a harvest limit of 135 requires longline vessels to use line mature turtles per year (Ishizaki, 2007). VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00043 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15313 cutters and dehookers to release turtles. However, enforcement mechanisms are not explicit, and the level of compliance is uncertain. Additional regulatory mechanisms are not in place in many countries within this DPS to address the major threat of bycatch within this DPS. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. Although conservation efforts to protect some nesting beaches are underway, more widespread and consistent protection would speed recovery. Some regulatory mechanisms, including laws and international treaties, are not realizing their full potential because they are not enforced adequately, or do not apply in all countries occupied by the DPS. The Status Review revealed a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to address coastal development, pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a threat to the survival of green turtles in the Central West Pacific. Sea turtles may be caught in longline, pole and line, and purse seine fisheries. Within the Marshall Islands, Palau, the FSM, and the Solomon Islands, a purse-seine fishery for tuna and a significant longline fishery operate, and sea turtles have been captured in both fisheries with green turtle mortality occurring (Oceanic Fisheries Programme, 2001; McCoy, 2003; Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005; McCoy, 2007a; McCoy, 2007b; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, 2008). Numerous subsistence and smallscale commercial fishing operations occur along Saipan’s western coast and along both the Rota and Tinian coasts (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). Incidental catch of turtles in Guam’s coastal waters by commercial fishing vessels likely also occurs (NMFS E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15314 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules and USFWS, 1998). In 2007, 222 fishing vessels (200 purse-seiners and 22 longliners) had access to Papua New Guinea waters (Kumoru, 2008). Although no official reports have been released on sea turtle bycatch within these fisheries (Project GloBAL, 2009c), sea turtle interactions with both fisheries have been commonly observed (Kumoru, 2008). However, the level of mortality is unknown. b. Vessel Strikes The impacts of vessel strikes in the Central West Pacific are unknown, but not thought to be of great consequence, except possibly in Palau where high speed skiffs constantly travel throughout the lagoon south of the main islands (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). However, green turtles have been documented as occasionally being hit by boats in Guam (Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, 2012). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 c. Pollution In the FSM, debris is dumped freely and frequently off boats and ships (including government ships). Landfill areas are practically nonexistent in the outer islands and have not been addressed adequately on Yap proper or on Chuuk and Pohnpei. The volume of imported goods (including plastic and paper packaging) appears to be increasing (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In Palau, entanglement in abandoned fishing nets has been identified as a threat to sea turtles (Eberdong and Klain, 2008). In the Marshall Islands, debris and garbage disposal in coastal waters is a serious problem on Majuro Atoll and Ebete Island (Kwajalein Atoll), both of which have inadequate space, earth cover, and shore protection for sanitary landfills. This problem also exists to a lesser extent at Daliet Atoll (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). A study of the gastrointestinal tracts of 36 slaughtered green turtles in the Ogasawara Islands of Japan in 2001 revealed the presence of marine debris (e.g., plastic bag pieces, plastic blocks, monofilament lines, Styrofoam pieces) in the majority of the turtles (Sako and Horikoshi, 2003). d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Over the long term, Central West Pacific turtle populations could be affected by the alteration of thermal sand characteristics (from global warming), resulting in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production ˜ (Caminas, 2004; Hawkes et al., 2009; Kasparek et al., 2001; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Further, a significant rise in sea level would restrict green turtle nesting VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 habitat in the Central West Pacific. Coastal erosion has been identified as a high risk in the CNMI due to the existence of concentrated human population centers near erosion-prone zones, coupled with the potential increasing threat of erosion from sea level rise (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). In the FSM, Yap State’s low coralline atolls are extremely vulnerable to rises in sea levels and will be adversely affected if rises occur (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). These risks are high for all beaches in the Central West Pacific. Interestingly, Barnett and Adger (2003) identified projected increases in sea-surface temperature, and not sea level rise, as the greatest long-term risk of climate change to atoll morphology and thus to atoll countries like those in the Central West Pacific. They state that coral reefs, which are essential to the formation and maintenance of the islets located around the rim of an atoll, are highly sensitive to sudden changes in sea-surface temperature. Thus, climate change impacts could have profound long-term impacts on green turtle nesting in the Central West Pacific, but it is not possible to project the impacts at this point in time. Natural environmental events such as cyclones and hurricanes may affect green turtles in the Central West Pacific DPS. These storm events have been shown to cause severe beach erosion with likely negative effects on hatching success at many green turtle nesting beaches, especially in areas already prone to erosion. Shoreline erosion occurs naturally on many islands in the atolls of the Marshall Islands due to ˜ storms, sea level rise from the El Nino– Southern Oscillation, and currents (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). Some erosion of nesting beaches at Oroluk was reported in 1990 after passage of Typhoon Owen (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). However, effects of these natural events may be exacerbated by climate change. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch continues to threaten this DPS. In addition, changes likely to result from climate change and natural disasters are increasing threats to this DPS. PO 00000 Frm 00044 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 C. Conservation Efforts for the Central West Pacific DPS Very few areas that host important green turtle nesting or foraging aggregations have been designated as protected areas within the Central West Pacific. However, at least one country, Palau, has site-specific conservation for sea turtle habitat protection. Two nationally mandated protected areas, Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Preserve and Ngerumekaol Spawning Area, exist within Koror State, and restrictions are placed on entry and fishing within established boundaries. Marine debris is a problem on some green turtle nesting beaches and foraging areas in the Central West Pacific, in particular on the nesting beaches of the CNMI (Palacios, 2012a; 2012b) and in the nearshore foraging areas of the FSM, Marshall Islands, and Palau (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Eberdong and Klain, 2008). Organized beach clean-ups on some CMNI beaches have been conducted to help mitigate this impact (Palacios, 2012b). Overall, it appears that international and national laws to protect green turtles may be insufficient or not implemented effectively to address the needs of green turtles in the Central West Pacific. This minimizes the potential success of existing conservation efforts. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central West Pacific DPS The Central West Pacific DPS is characterized by a relatively small nesting population spread across a relatively expansive area roughly 2,500 miles wide (Palau to the Marshall Islands) and 2,500 miles long (Ogasawara, Japan to the Solomon Islands). This DPS is dominated by insular nesting. Fifty-one known nesting sites were analyzed, although many had very old data (20–30 years old). Sixteen sites were identified but numbers of nesting females were ‘‘unquantified,’’ and another 21 had fewer than 100 nesting females. Only two sites had more than 1,000 nesting females (1,412 and 1,301). Further study of this DPS would improve our understanding of it. The limited available information on trends suggests a nesting population decrease in some areas, an increase in one Japanese nesting site, and unknown trends in others. The second largest nesting site in this DPS (Chichijima, Japan) shows positive growth. The dispersed location of nesting sites and lack of concentration of nesting provides a level of habitat diversity and population resilience which reduces E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules overall extinction risk, as does widely varied nesting seasons; however, the contribution of this characteristic to such diversity and resilience is reduced by the small size of many of these sites and the threats faced in each of the nesting and foraging areas. Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the insular Pacific and this expansion is accompanied by threats to green turtle nesting habitat resulting from coastal development and construction, beachfront lighting, degradation of waters and seagrass beds off of populated areas, and sand extraction. Destructive fishing methods (use of dynamite and poisons) not only incidentally capture green turtles, but also deplete invertebrate and fish populations and thus alter ecosystem dynamics. Fishery bycatch, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from longline, pole and line, and purse seine fisheries, continue as threats to this DPS. In addition, legal and illegal harvest of green turtles and eggs for human consumption remains a significant threat in many areas of this DPS. Finally, changes likely to result from climate change and natural disasters could have profound long-term impacts on green turtle nesting in the Central West Pacific. Although regulatory mechanisms are in place that should address direct and incidental take of Central West Pacific green turtles, these regulatory mechanisms are insufficient or are not being implemented effectively to address the population trajectories of green turtles. For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central West Pacific DPS as endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance and exposure to increasing threats, we find that this DPS is presently in danger of extinction throughout its range. XIV. Southwest Pacific DPS mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 A. Discussion of Population Parameters in the Southwest Pacific DPS The range of the Southwest Pacific DPS extends from the western boundary of Torres Strait, to the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea and out to the offshore coordinate of 13° S., 171° E.; the eastern boundary runs from this point southeast to 40° S., 176° E.; the southern boundary runs along 40° S. from 142° E. to 176° E.; and the western boundary runs from 40° S., 142° E north to Australian coast then follows the coast northward to Torres Strait (Figure 2). Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed throughout the Southwest VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Pacific Ocean at 12 total nesting sites, although it should be noted that, perhaps more so than in other DPSs, proximate nesting beaches were grouped for analysis because nesting populations are small, with the exception of a few sites, including Raine Island, where the majority (>90 percent) of the nesting in the northern GBR occurs. While it would be possible to split the nesting aggregations into more than 100 different sites, because many of the most recent estimates are aggregated (Limpus, 2009), we followed this tendency and aggregated nesting within broad regional areas. The bulk of this DPS nests within Australia’s Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and eastern Torres Strait. The northern GBR and Torres Strait support some of the world’s highest concentrations of nesting (Chaloupka et al., 2008a). Nesting abundance in the northern GBR is not directly counted throughout the nesting season largely because of the remoteness of the site and the sheer numbers of turtles that may nest on any given night. Raine Island, with estimates of annual nesting females varying from 4,000–89,000 (Seminoff et al., 2004; NMFS and U.S. FWS, 2007; Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Limpus, 2009) (note the Status Review used an estimate of 25,000 nesting females), Moulter Cay, with 15,965 nesting females (Limpus et al., 2003; Limpus, 2009), and the rest of the Capricorn Bunker Group with 31,249 nesting females (Limpus, 2009) represent the three sites with >10,000 nesting females. Heron Island is the index nesting beach for the southern GBR, and nearly every nesting female on Heron Island has been tagged since 1974 (Limpus and Nicholls, 2000). Heron Island (4,891 nesting females; Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Limpus, 2009), Bramble Cay in the northern GBR (1,660; Limpus et al., 2003; Limpus 2009), and Huon, Leleizour and Fabre in New Caledonia (1,777; Limpus, 2009) represent the sites with 1,001–5,000 nesting females. There are three sites with 501–1,000: The Coral Sea (all sites; 1,000; Limpus, 2009), No. 8 Sandbank in northern GBR (637; Limpus et al., 2003; Limpus 2009), and other northern GBR sites, including Murray Islands, other outer islands, most inner shelf cays and the mainland coast (535; Limpus 2009). Bamboo Bay in Vanuatu (165; MacKay and Petro, 2013) and No. 7 Sandbank in the northern GBR represent the two sites with nesting females in the 101–500 category. The rest of the southern GBR (represented here as one site) is unquantified. The Raine Island and Heron Island sites both have high inter-annual PO 00000 Frm 00045 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15315 variability and slightly increasing linear trends. These were the only two nesting areas for which 15 or more years of recent data are available for annual nesting female abundance, one of the standards for performing a PVA in the Status Review. Both show a continued increasing trend, though the Raine Island PVA indicates that there is a 9.1 percent probability that this population will fall below the trend reference point (50 percent decline) at the end of 100 years, and a 0.4 percent probability that it will fall below the absolute abundance reference (100 females per year) at the end of 100 years. However, extra caution must be used when interpreting results of the Raine Island PVA, because it only represents females observed during one sampling event on one night. The Heron Island PVA indicates that there is a 17.5 percent probability that the magnitude of adult females associated with Heron Island nesting will fall below the trend reference point (50 percent decline) at the end of 100 years, and an 8.3 percent probability that this population will fall below the absolute abundance reference (100 females per year) at the end of 100 years. It should be noted that PVA modeling has important limitations, and does not fully incorporate other key elements critical to the decision making process such as spatial structure or threats. It assumes all environmental and anthropogenic pressures will remain constant in the forecast period and it relies on nesting data alone. Although long robust time series are not available for New Caledonia, recent and historical accounts do not suggest a significant decline in abundance of green turtles nesting in New Caledonia (Maison et al., 2010). The trend at Vanuatu has not been documented (Maison et al., 2010). With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Southwest Pacific DPS has been extensive for larger nesting sites along the GBR, the Coral Sea, and New Caledonia; however, there are several smaller nesting sites in this region that still need to be sampled (e.g. Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea). Within this DPS, four regional genetic stocks have been identified in the Southwest Pacific Ocean; northern GBR, southern GBR, Coral Sea (Dethmers et al., 2006; Jensen, 2010), and New Caledonia (Dethmers et al., 2006; Dutton et al., 2014). Mixed stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that green turtles from multiple nesting beach origins commonly mix in foraging grounds along the GBR and Torres Strait regions (Jensen, 2010), but with the vast majority originating from nesting sites within the GBR. There is E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15316 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules evidence of low frequency contribution from nesting sites outside the range of the DPS at some foraging areas. With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting beach monitoring along with flipper and satellite tagging show the spatial structure of this DPS is largely consistent with viable populations. Nesting can occur yearround in the most northerly nesting sites, but a distinct peak occurs in late December to early January for all Australian nesting sites. Foraging is widely dispersed throughout the range of this DPS (Limpus, 2009). There are various factors that lead to resilience in nesting in the Southwest Pacific DPS: it is widely dispersed throughout the region, there is more than one major nesting site, there is evidence of some connectivity between nesting sites within each of the four regional stocks but no connectivity among regional stocks, and there is continental and insular nesting. Nesting, however, is not evenly distributed throughout the range of the DPS, and some of the densest nesting occurs on Raine Island, which has habitat-based threats. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Pacific DPS mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone Destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat in the Southwest Pacific DPS result from beach erosion, beach pollution, removal of native vegetation, and planting of non-native vegetation, as well as natural environmental change (Limpus, 2009). Coastal development and construction, placement of erosion control structures and other barriers to nesting, and vehicular traffic minimally impact green turtles in this DPS (Limpus, 2009). Artificial light levels have increased significantly for green turtles in minor nesting sites of the northern GBR and remained relatively constant for the mainland of Australia (part of southern GBR) south of Gladstone (Kamrowski et al., 2014). Most of the nests at the documented nesting sites within this DPS occur within the protected habitat, but there is still concern about the viability of nesting habitat (Limpus, 2009). Total productivity is limited by reduced nesting and hatching success, which at Raine Island appear to be depressed due to habitat issues. At Raine Island, mean nesting success (i.e., probability that a clutch will be laid when a turtle comes ashore for a nesting attempt) can be as low as 3.3 percent (Limpus et al., 2007). Reduced VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 recruitment can be caused by flooding of egg chambers by ground water, dry collapsing sand around egg chambers, and underlying rock which prevents appropriately deep egg chambers (Limpus et al., 2003). In the 1996 to 1997 breeding season, for example, flooding of nests caused a near total loss of viable eggs, and flooding has been a regular event in subsequent years (Limpus et al., 2003; Limpus, 2009). Death of nesting females occurs on Raine Island when they enter the elevated interior of the island due to crowding on the beach and return along a different route, encountering hazards such as small cliffs, over which they wander and roll onto their backs. Nightly mortality ranges from 0 to over 70 per night and is highest when nesting the previous night exceeds 1,000 (Limpus et al., 2003). Understanding the root cause of changes to Raine Island nesting habitat is challenging and is the aim of several Australian and State Government research and monitoring projects. These habitat-based threats (particularly related to hatchling production) constitute serious threats to this DPS, given the large abundance of turtles nesting in the northern GBR. b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Threats to habitat in the neritic and/ or oceanic zones in the Southwest Pacific DPS include fishing practices, channel dredging, and marine pollution, although the internesting habitat adjacent to the nesting sites with the highest documented nesting levels in this DPS is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park and the adjacent Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Limpus, 2009). Protection for marine turtles in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area has been increasing since the mid-1990s (Dryden et al., 2008). In summary, we find that the Southwest Pacific DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices as considered above in Factor A. Groundwater intrusion on high density beaches, artificial lighting, fishery practices, channel dredging, and marine pollution are continual threats to the persistence of this DPS. 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Southwest Pacific DPS turtles are vulnerable to harvest throughout Australia and neighboring countries such as New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia (Limpus, 2009). Cumulative annual harvest of green turtles that nest in PO 00000 Frm 00046 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Australia may be in the tens of thousands, and it appears likely that historical native harvest may have been in the same order of magnitude (Limpus, 2009). The Australian Native Title Act (1993) gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a legal right to hunt sea turtles in Australia for traditional, communal, non-commercial purposes (Limpus, 2009). Although indigenous groups, governments, wildlife managers and scientists work together with the aim of sustainably managing turtle resources (Maison et al., 2010 citing K. Dobbs, Queensland Parks Authority, pers. comm., 2010), traditional harvest remains a threat to green turtle populations. However, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of harvest on the persistence of this DPS. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation Low levels of FP-associated turtle herpes virus is common in green turtles in some but not all semi-enclosed waters like Moreton Bay and Repulse Bay in Australia, more infrequent in nearshore open waters, and rare in offshore coral reef habitats (Limpus, 2009). Mortality and recovery rates from this virus are not quantified but stranded, infected turtles are regularly encountered in south Queensland (Limpus, 2009). Primary hatchling and egg predators of this DPS include crabs, birds, fish, and mammals. The magnitude of egg predation is not well documented, but within Australia the highest levels of vertebrate predation on eggs occur in other species, primarily loggerheads (Environment Australia, 2003). In Vanuatu, nest predation by feral dogs is a primary threat (Maison et al., 2010). Survivorship of hatchlings in the southern GBR during the transition from nest to sea (accounting for crab and bird predation) may be quite high (Limpus, 1971), but survivorship of hatchlings as they transition across the reef flat from the water’s edge to deep water is likely considerably lower (Gyuris, 1994 as cited in Limpus, 2009). Similar survivorship estimates are not available for the northern GBR, but survival during the nest to sea transition is expected to be low and variable, depending on the predator assemblage. Although many birds co-occur with sea turtle hatchlings in the northern GBR, only some birds, like the rufous night heron (Nycticorax caledonicus), are important predators (Limpus et al., 2003). Terrestrial crabs that occur throughout the northern GBR have been observed feeding on turtle hatchlings and eggs, but crabs are generally of low density (Limpus et al., 2003). Shark E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 predation on hatchlings as well as adults has been documented (Limpus et al., 2003). Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS that address the direct capture of green turtles within this DPS. There are regulations, within this DPS, that specially address the harvest of green turtles while a few regulations are limited in that they only apply to certain times of year or allow for traditional use. Australia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, the only countries with nesting aside from the Coral Sea Islands, which are a territory of Australia, have laws to protect green turtles. National protective legislation generally regulates intentional killing, possession, and trade (Limpus, 2009; Maison et al., 2010). In addition, at least 17 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Southwest Pacific DPS. The majority of nesting beaches (and often the associated internesting habitat) are protected in Australia, which is the country with the vast majority of the known nesting. In Australia, the conservation of green turtles is governed by a variety of national and territorial legislation. Conservation began with 1932 harvest restrictions on turtles and eggs in Queensland in October and November, south of 17° S., and by 1968 the restriction extended all year long for all of Queensland (Limpus, 2009). As described in the preceding section, other conservation efforts include sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of bycatch reduction devices and safer dredging practices, improvement of shark control devices, and safer dredging practices, and the development of community based management plans with Indigenous groups. Australia has undertaken extensive marine spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and internesting habitat surrounding important nesting sites. The GBR’s listing on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List in 1981 has increased the protection of habitats within the GBR World Heritage Area (Dryden et al., 2008). In New Caledonia, 1985 fishery regulations contained some regional sea turtle conservation measures, and these VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 were expanded in 2008 to include the EEZ, the Main Island, and remote islands (Maison et al., 2010). In Vanuatu, new fisheries regulations in 2009 prohibit the take, harm, capture, disturbance, possession, sale, purchase of or interference, import, or export of green turtles Maison et al., 2010). There are several regulatory mechanisms in place that should address incidental take of green turtles within this DPS; however, these regulatory mechanisms are not realizing their full potential because they are not enforced at the local level. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to address impacts to nesting beach habitat and overutilization is a continuing concern for this DPS. Other threats with inadequate regulatory mechanisms include incidental bycatch in fishing gear, boat strikes, port dredging, debris, national defense, and toxic compounds. Lack of implementation or enforcement by some nations renders regulatory mechanisms less effective than if they were implemented in a more consistent manner across the target region. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address threats to nesting beaches, eggs, hatchlings, juveniles, and adults through harvest and incidental harm occur throughout the range of the Southwest Pacific DPS. Some threats, such as inundation of nests at Raine Island and sea level rise, cannot be controlled through individual national legislation and persist as a threat to this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a threat to the survival of green turtles in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The primary gear types involved in these interactions PO 00000 Frm 00047 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15317 include trawl fisheries, longlines, drift nets, and set nets. These are employed by both artisanal and industrial fleets, and target a wide variety of species including prawns, crabs, sardines, and large pelagic fish. Nesting turtles of the Southwest Pacific DPS are vulnerable to the Queensland East Coast Trawl Fisheries and the Torres Strait Prawn Fishery, and to the extent other turtles forage west of Torres Strait, they are also vulnerable (Limpus, 2009). In 2000, the use of TEDs in the Northern Australian Prawn Fishery became mandatory, due in part to several factors: (1) Objectives of the Australian Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles, (2) requirements of the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for Commonwealth fisheries to become ecologically sustainable, and (3) the 1996 U.S. import embargo on wildcaught prawns taken in a fishery without adequate turtle bycatch management practices (Robins et al., 2002). Australian and international longline fisheries capture green turtles. Precise estimates of international capture of Southwest Pacific Ocean DPS green turtles by the international longline fleet are not available, but they are thought to be larger than the Australian component (DEWHA, 2010). In addition to threats from prawn trawls, green turtles may face threats from other fishing gear (summarized from Limpus, 2009). Take of green turtles in gill nets (targeting barramundi, salmon, mackerel, and shark) in Queensland and the Northern Territory has been observed but not quantified. Untended ‘‘ghost’’ fishing gear that has been intentionally discarded or lost due to weather conditions may entangle and kill many hundreds of green turtles annually. b. Shark Control Programs Green turtles are captured in shark control programs, but protocols are in place to reduce the impact. The Queensland Shark Control Program is managed by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (Limpus, 2009) and has been operating since 1962 (Gribble et al., 1998). In 1992, their operations began to be modified to reduce mortality of nontarget species (Gribble et al., 1998). Observed green turtle annual mortality during 1998–2003 was 2.7 per year (Limpus, 2009). Green turtles have been captured in the New South Wales sharkmeshing program since 1937, but total capture for all turtle species from 1950 through 1993 is roughly five or fewer turtles per year (Krogh and Reid, 1996). E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15318 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Post-release survival does not appear to have been monitored in any of the monitoring programs. c. Boat Strikes and Port Dredging The magnitude of mortality from boat strikes may be in the high tens to low hundreds per year in Queensland (Limpus, 2009). This threat affects juvenile and adult turtles and may increase with increasing high-speed boat traffic in coastal waters. The magnitude of mortality from port dredging in Queensland may be in the order of tens of turtles or less per year (Limpus, 2009). d. Toxic Compounds and Marine Debris Toxic compounds and bioaccumulative chemicals threaten green turtles in the Southwest Pacific DPS. Poor health conditions (debilitation and death) have been reported in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria for green turtles, many of which had unusual black fat (Kwan and Bell, 2003; Limpus, 2009). Heavy metal concentrations have also been reported in Australia (Dight and Gladstone, 1994; Reiner, 1994; Gordon et al., 1998; Limpus, 2009), but the health impact has not been quantified. The magnitude of mortality from ingestion of synthetic material in Queensland is expected to be at least tens of turtles annually (Limpus, 2009). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Green turtle populations could be affected by the effects of climate change on nesting grounds (Fuentes et al., 2011) as well as in marine habitats (Hamann et al., 2007; Hawkes et al., 2009). Potential effects of climate change include changes in nest site selection, range shifts, diet shifts, and loss of nesting habitat due to sea level rise (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Climate change will likely also cause higher sand temperatures leading to increased feminization of surviving hatchlings (i.e., changes in sex ratio), and some beaches will likely experience lethal incubation temperatures that will result in losses of complete hatchling cohorts (Glen and Mrosovsky, 2004; Fuentes et al., 2010; Fuentes et al., 2011). While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). In a study of the northern GBR nesting assemblages, Bramble Cay and Milman Islet were vulnerable to sea-level rise, and almost all sites in the study were expected to be vulnerable to increased temperatures by 2070 (Fuentes et al., 2011). Similar data are not available for other nesting sites. The Southwest Pacific DPS contains some atolls, as well as coral reef areas that share some ecological characteristics with atolls. Barnett and Adger (2003) state that coral reefs, which are essential to the formation and maintenance of the islets located around the rim of an atoll, are highly sensitive to sudden changes in sea-surface temperature. Thus, climate change impacts could have long-term impacts on green turtle ecology in the Southwest Pacific DPS, but it is not possible to project the impacts at this point in time. In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that occurs throughout the range of the DPS, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from pelagic longline, drift nets, set net, and trawl fisheries, is a continued risk to this DPS. Additional threats from boat strikes, marine pollution, changes likely to result from climate change, and cyclonic storm events are pose an increasing risk to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS Conservation efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS have resulted in sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of bycatch reduction devices, improvement of shark control devices, and safer dredging practices. Australia, in particular, has undertaken extensive marine spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and internesting habitat surrounding some of the largest and most important nesting sites in the DPS. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Pacific DPS The Southwest Pacific DPS is characterized by relatively high levels of green turtle nesting abundance (>80,000 nesting females) and contains the GBR, the largest coral reef system in the world, as well as continental coastline, islands, and atolls. The trends in nesting female abundance at the two index beaches (Raine Island and Heron Island, Australia) are stable or increasing. The spatial structure of this DPS extends over a large geographic area, with several large nesting sites spread within the range of this DPS, and includes both continental and insular nesting, thereby providing a level of habitat diversity PO 00000 Frm 00048 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 and population resilience. This region has high genetic diversity resulting from a mix of highly divergent lineages, some of which are among the oldest lineages found in C. mydas. There are concerns about climate change in general and the nesting habitat at Raine Island in particular, where nests are sometimes flooded and nesting female mortality can range from 1–70 per night due to overcrowding. The threats to this Southwest Pacific DPS include directed harvest, incidental bycatch in fisheries, shark control programs, boat strikes, port dredging, debris, activities associated with national defense, disease, predation, toxic compounds, and climate change. Conservation efforts have resulted in sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of bycatch reduction devices, improvement of shark control devices, and safer dredging practices. Australia, in particular, has undertaken extensive marine spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and internesting habitat surrounding important nesting sites. In the southern GBR threats are well managed, harvest is low, and the population increasing; however, in the northern GBR there are concerns for Raine Island and harvest is a cause for concern. In the Coral Sea there are few known threats and it is remote and well managed from human threats. Although the DPS shows strength in many of the critical elements, there are still concerns about numerous threats including climate change and habitat degradation. For the above reasons, we propose to list the Southwest Pacific DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of high nesting abundance and geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. XV. Central South Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central South Pacific DPS The range of the Central South Pacific DPS extends north and east of New Zealand to include a longitudinal expanse of 7,500 km—from Easter Island, Chile in the east to Fiji in the west, and encompasses American Samoa, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Tokelau, Tonga, and Tuvalu. Its open ocean polygonal boundary endpoints are (clockwise from the northwest-most extent): 9° N., 175° W. to 9° N., 125° W. to 40° S., 96° W. to 40° S., 176° E., to 13° S., 171° E., and back to 9° N., 175° W. (Figure 2). Nesting occurs sporadically throughout the geographic distribution E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules of the DPS at low levels. Green turtles departing nesting grounds within the range of this DPS travel throughout the South Pacific Ocean. Post-nesting green turtles tagged in the early 1990s from Rose Atoll returned to foraging grounds in Fiji and French Polynesia (Craig et al., 2004). Nesting females tagged in French Polynesia migrated west after nesting to various sites in the western South Pacific (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993). In addition to nesting beaches, green turtles are found in coastal waters (White and Galbraith, 2013; White, 2013), but in-water information for this DPS is particularly limited. Based on available data, we estimate there are approximately 2,800 nesting females in this DPS at 59 nesting sites. The most abundant nesting area was Scilly Atoll, French Polynesia, which in the early 1990s was estimated to host 300–400 nesting females annually (Balazs et al., 1995), and has an estimated total nesting female abundance of 1,050 breeding females, roughly one-third of all nesting females in the DPS (although this number is dated, it is used in the Status Review as it is the most recent data and the best available). However, Scilly Atoll was last monitored in the early 1990s (Balazs et al., 1995), and abundance has reportedly declined as a result of commercial exploitation (Conservation International Pacific Islands Program, 2013). There are six other sites with 101–500 nesting females according to the best available data, although the estimate for Nukunonu, Tokelau is from the 1970s. Many nesting areas (21 of 58, or 36 percent) only have qualitative information that nesting is present, indicating that there is still much to learn about green turtle nesting in this region. As these unquantified nesting sites most likely each have a female abundance in the 1–100 range, their collective sum is probably fewer than 700 nesting females. Historical baseline nesting information in general is not widely available in this region, but exploitation and trade of green turtles throughout the region is well-known (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989). No long-term monitoring programs are currently available at beaches in this population, and no single site has had standardized surveys for even 5 continuous years. Most nesting areas are in remote, low-lying atolls that are logistically difficult to access. Partial and inconsistent monitoring from the largest nesting site in this DPS, Scilly Atoll, suggests significant nesting declines from persistent and illegal commercial harvesting (Petit, 2013). Historically, 100–500 females nested annually at Canton Island, Kiribati VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 (Balazs, 1975b) but, as of 2002, it had an estimated 29 nesting females. Nesting abundance is reported to be stable to increasing at Tongareva Atoll (White and Galbraith, 2013). It is also reported to be stable to increasing at Rose Atoll, Swains Atoll, Tetiaroa, Tikehau, and Maiao. However, these sites are of relatively low abundance and in sum represent less than 16 percent of the population abundance at Scilly Atoll alone. With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central South Pacific is limited and many of the small isolated nesting sites that characterize this region have not been covered. Mitochondrial DNA studies indicate there are at least two genetic stocks in American Samoa and French Polynesia (Dutton et al., 2014), which have unique haplotypes (Dutton et al., 2014). Flipper tag returns and satellite tracking studies demonstrate that post-nesting turtles travel the complete geographic breadth of the range of this DPS, from French Polynesia in the east to Fiji in the west, and sometimes even slightly beyond (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et al., 2004; Maison et al., 2010; White, 2012), even as far as the Philippines (Trevor, 2009). Limited demographic information suggests a low level of population structuring within this DPS (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et al., 2004; White, 2012; White and Galbraith, 2013). With regard to diversity and resilience, the Central South Pacific has a broad geographical area, but the nesting sites themselves exhibit little diversity. Most nesting sites are located in low-lying coral atolls or oceanic islands and thus are subject to loss of habitat due to sea level rise. Local nesting density is sparse spatially, typically spread over >10 km stretches of beach and is also low in terms of abundance. Only one nesting site (Scilly Atoll with 1,050 females; Balazs et al., 1995) has a nesting female abundance exceeding 250, and this estimate is 20 years old. Foraging areas are mostly coral reef ecosystems, with seagrass beds in Tonga and Fiji being a notable exception. B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central South Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone Nesting in the Central South Pacific DPS is geographically widespread with the majority of nesting sites being remote and not easily accessed, and at low-lying oceanic islands or coral atolls. PO 00000 Frm 00049 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15319 The largest nesting site for this DPS is believed to be at Scilly Atoll in French Polynesia. Balazs et al. (1995) report that the earliest human settlement at Scilly Atoll in French Polynesia appears to have occurred around 1952. It is unclear how much of an effect human habitation of the atoll has had, or is having, on the nesting habitat for the turtle. In the populated islands of American Samoa, such as Tutuila, continuous incremental loss of habitat has occurred due to varied activities of human populations (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Saili, 2005). Indeed, human population growth and attendant village expansion and development on Tutuila Island have resulted in decreasing usage of some Tutuila beaches by nesting turtles and pre-emption of some green turtle nesting beaches (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993). Turtles on Tutuila, possibly disoriented by land-based lights, are subject to mortality from cars (A. Tagarino, American Samoa DMWR, pers. comm., 2013). Lighting is a potential problem affecting the quality of the nesting habitat on Ofu nesting beach as well (Tagarino, 2012). The main nesting site in American Samoa is Rose Atoll, which is uninhabited and therefore without current threats to terrestrial habitat. In Samoa, degradation of habitat through coastal development and natural disasters as cited in SPREP (SPREP, 2012) remains a threat (J. Ward, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa, pers. comm., 2013). In Kiribati, historical destruction (bulldozing) of the vegetation zone next to the nesting beach on Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands occurred during World War II and may have negatively affected the availability of a portion of nesting beach area (Balazs, 1975). The remoteness of these islands and minimal amount of study of sea turtles in this area makes recent information on nesting beach condition and threats difficult to obtain. In the Cook Islands, the major nesting site for green turtles, Tongareva Atoll, is uninhabited and there are not likely threats related to development or human disturbance (White, 2012b). However, elsewhere in the Cook Islands, sand extraction (for building purposes) and building developments are reported as potential threats to sea turtles; for instance, the best potential site at Tauhunu motu on Manihiki appears to be no longer used for nesting (White, 2012a). Weaver (1996) notes that sea turtles are negatively affected in Fiji by modification of nesting beaches. Coastal erosion in Tonga and Tuvalu is reported E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15320 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 as a major problem for turtle nesting (Alefaio and Alefaio, 2006; Bell et al., 2010). Human consumption has had a significant impact on green turtles in the Central South Pacific DPS. Hirth and Rohovit (1992) report that exploitation of green turtles for eggs, meat, and parts has occurred throughout the South Pacific Region, including American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, and Kiribati. Allen (2007) notes that in Remote Oceania (which includes this DPS) sea turtles were important in traditional societies but, despite this, have experienced severe declines since human colonization approximately 2,800 years ago. At western contact, some of the islands supported sizable human populations resulting in intense pressures on local coastal fisheries. At Scilly Atoll in French Polynesia local residents (approximately 20 to 40 people) are allowed to take 50 adults per year from a nesting population that could be as low as 300–400 (M. S. Allen, 2007; Balazs et al., 1995). Balazs et al. (1995) reported that declines in nesting green turtles at the important areas of Scilly, Motu-one, and Mopelia, among the highest density nesting sites in the DPS, have occurred due to commercial exploitation for markets in Tahiti, as well as exploitation due to human habitation. Illegal harvest of sea turtles has been reported for French Polynesia by Te Honu Tea (2007). Brikke (2009) conducted a study on Bora Bora and Maupiti islands and reported that sea turtle meat remains in high demand and that fines are rarely imposed. Directed take in the marine environment has been a significant source of mortality in American Samoa, and turtle populations have seriously declined (Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993; NMFS and USFWS, 1998). Although take of sea turtle eggs or sea turtles is illegal (the ESA applies in this territory), turtles from American Samoa migrate to other countries (e.g., Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia) where turtle consumption is legal or occurs illegally (Craig, 1993; Tuato’o-Bartley et al., 1993). Turtles have been traditionally harvested for food and shells in the country of Samoa, and over-exploitation of turtles has negatively affected local populations (Government of Samoa, 1998). Unsustainable harvest (direct take for meat) remains a major threat to green turtles in Samoa (J. Ward, Government of Samoa, pers. comm. 2013). In Fiji, Weaver (1996) identified the contemporary harvest and consumption of turtles by humans for eggs, meat, and Little is known regarding the status of the foraging habitat and threats found in French Polynesia (Balazs et al., 1995). NMFS and USFWS (1998) noted that degradation of coral reef habitats on the south side of Tutuila Island, American Samoa is occurring due to sedimentation from erosion on agricultural slopes and natural disasters. Ship groundings are also potential threats to habitat in American Samoa. For example, a ship grounded at Rose Atoll in 1993, damaging reef habitat and spilling 100,000 gallons of fuel and other contaminants (USFWS, 2014). In the nearby neighboring country of Samoa, coastal and marine areas have been negatively impacted by pollution (Government of Samoa, 1998). Fiji appears to be an important foraging area for green turtles of this DPS. Sea turtles have been negatively affected by alteration and degradation of foraging habitat and to some extent pollution or degradation of nearshore ecosystems (Batibasaga et al., 2006). Jit (2007) also suggests that sea turtles in Fiji are threatened by degradation of reefs and seagrass beds. Given that turtles outside of Fiji appear to use this foraging habitat, negative effects to this foraging area have important implications for the entire DPS. Tourism development on the eastern coast of Viti Levu could negatively impact sea turtle foraging sites (Jit, 2007). In Tonga, marine habitat is being affected by anthropogenic activities. Heavy sedimentation and poor water quality have killed patch reefs; high nutrients and high turbidity are negatively impacting seagrasses; and human activities are negatively impacting mangroves (Prescott et al., 2004). Although Palmyra Atoll is now protected, it was altered by U.S. military activities during World War II through dredging, connection, and expansion of islets (Sterling et al., 2013). In summary, as to Factor A, we find that the Central South Pacific DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices. Pollution persists and loss of beach due to coastal development is significant threats to this DPS. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00050 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 shells as a significant threat for sea turtles. This includes commercial harvest, as well as subsistence and ceremonial harvest. In Kiribati (e.g., Phoenix Islands), an unknown number of turtles are caught as bycatch on longlines and eaten (Obura and Stone, 2002). Poaching has been reported for Caroline Atoll, but to what extent it currently occurs is unknown (Teeb’aki, 1992). In Tonga, Bell et al. (1994) report that collection of eggs for subsistence occurs. Prescott et al. (2004) and Havea and MacKay (2009) also note that it is still a practice on islands where turtles nest. Bell et al. (2009) report that in Tonga sea turtles are harvested and live turtles are often seen transported from outer islands to the main island, Tongatapu. It is unclear if this harvest is sustainable, especially given the increased catch rates in Tungua for the commercial market (Havea and MacKay, 2009). In Tuvalu, harvest of sea turtles for their meat has been cited as a major threat (Alefaio and Alefaio, 2006; Ono and Addison, 2009). In the Cook Islands, turtles are sometimes killed during nesting at Palmerston and Rakahanga, while nesting and fishing on Nassau, and while nesting at Manihiki, Tongareva, and probably at other atolls (White, 2012). In Tokelau, Balazs (1983) reported human take of both sea turtle eggs from nests and adult males and females while copulating, nesting, or swimming (by harpoon). In summary, within Factor B current legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles throughout the Central South Pacific DPS persist as a threat to this DPS. The threat to the stability of green turtle populations posed by harvesting nesting females is particularly significant due to the small number of nesting females within this DPS. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation While FP is recorded elsewhere in the Pacific, it does not appear to be a threat in the Central South Pacific DPS (Utzurrum, 2002; A. Tagarino, American Samoa DMWR, pers. comm., 2013). The best available data suggest that current nest and hatchling predation on several Central South Pacific DPS nesting beaches and in-water habitats is a potential threat to this DPS. Predation of green turtles (e.g., by sharks) occurs in French Polynesia; however, the extent of such predation is unknown. In American Samoa, Polynesian rats (Rattus exultans) were an issue at Rose Atoll prior to a 1993 eradication (USFWS, 2014), but no longer appear to be a problem. Crabs are E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 reported to eat hatchlings at Rose Atoll (Ponwith, 1990; Balazs, 1993; Pendleton pers. comm., USFWS, 2013). On Swains Island, feral pig activity has been documented and may be a threat to nests on the island (Tagarino and Utzurrum, 2010). Predation of green turtles by sharks has been reported at Rose Atoll and Palmyra Atoll; however, the extent of such predation is unknown (Graeffe, 1873; Sachet, 1954; Balazs, 1999; Sterling et al., 2013). The main threat to wildlife on Rose Atoll is thought to be the introduction (or possible reintroduction) of exotic species (K. Van Houtan, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). In Samoa, feral animal predation on turtle nests and eggs remains a threat (SPREP, 2012; J. Ward, Government of Samoa, pers. comm., 2013). In other areas, predation is likely a contributing threat to green turtles. Introduced animals, including feral cats, rats, and feral pigs, are reported problems for wildlife (Teeb’aki, 1992) and may threaten green turtles on certain islands in Kiribati such as Kiritimati. In Tokelau, identified predators that may constitute a terrestrial threat to turtles include hermit crabs, ghost crabs, Polynesian rats, frigate birds (Fregata ariel, F. minor), and reef herons (Egretta sacra; Balazs, 1983). Feral pigs, rats, crabs, possibly some sea birds, and large fish are potential predators of sea turtles (eggs and hatchlings) in the Cook Islands (White, 2012). Pigs are reported on Mauke, although their impact on sea turtles is unquantified (Bradshaw and Bradshaw, 2012). Although predation is known to occur, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Lack of regulatory mechanisms and/or adequate implementation and enforcement is a threat to the Central South Pacific DPS. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the countries within this DPS specifically address the harvest of green turtles, while a few regulations are limited in that they only apply during certain times of the year or allow for traditional harvest. Numerous countries have reserves (French Polynesia, Kiribati, Samoa, and the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument), national legislation, and/or local regulations VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 protecting turtles. These include the foreign Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and the U.S. territories of Wake, Baker, Howland and Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll. In some places such as Tokelau and Wallis and Futuna, information on turtle protection was either unclear or could not be found. At least 17 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Central South Pacific DPS. Green turtles in American Samoa are fully protected under the ESA. Green turtles are also protected by the Fishing and Hunting Regulations for American Samoa (24.0934), which prohibit the import, export, sale, possession, transport, or trade of sea turtles or their parts and take (as defined by the ESA) and carry additional penalties for violations at the local government level (Maison et al., 2010). Additionally, an American Samoa Executive Order in 2003 established the territorial waters of American Samoa as a sanctuary for sea turtles and marine mammals, in 2003; American Samoa declared its submerged lands a Whale and Turtle Sanctuary. It is not known how effective implementation of these protections is in American Samoa. The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is comprised of six protected areas, covering 35,175 km2 of nearshore coral reef and offshore open ocean waters across the Samoan Archipelago. Additionally, Rose Atoll Marine National Monument was established in 2009 and encompasses the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. These protected areas should provide some level of protection for green turtles and their habitat; however the effectiveness of these monuments for this species is unknown. Regulatory mechanisms are apparently inadequate to curb a continued loss of nesting habitat and degradation of foraging habitat due to human activities and coastal development on populated islands of American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. Turtles continue to be harvested for food and shells, and are used in commercial, subsistence, and ceremonial capacities. Rudrud (2010) suggests that traditional laws in Polynesia may have historically limited green turtle consumption to certain people (chiefs, priests) or special ceremonies. However, as the societies of this region have been affected by Western culture and modernization of traditions have been altered; traditional laws have lost their effectiveness in PO 00000 Frm 00051 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15321 limiting negative effects of harvest on sea turtles. There are protected areas, within this DPS, that should provide some level of protection for green turtles and their habitat; however the effectiveness of these monuments for this species is unknown. The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address coastal development, marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a significant threat to the survival of green sea turtles throughout the Central South Pacific DPS. The primary gear types involved in these interactions include longlines and nets. Incidental capture in line, trap, or net fisheries presents a threat to sea turtles in American Samoa (Tagarino, 2011). Subsistence gill nets have been known to occasionally catch green turtles. Additionally, longline fishing is considered a threat to Central South Pacific green turtles. In 2010, the American Samoa longline fishery was estimated to have interacted with an average of 33 green turtles annually, with a 92 percent mortality rate, triggering reinitiation of a section 7 consultation; the current incidental take statement allows 45 green sea turtle interactions (41 mortalities) every three years (http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/Library/ PUBDOCs/biological_opinions/622NMFS-ASLL_Am_to_Pelagics_FMP_ Biop_FINAL_9-16-10.pdf). In Fiji, green turtles are killed in commercial fishing nets; however, the exact extent and intensity of this threat is unknown (Rupeni et al. 2002). Jit (2007) and McCoy (2008) report that green turtle bycatch is occurring in longline tuna fisheries in Fiji. The exact level of interaction with green turtles is unclear. In the Cook Islands, longline fishery regulations require fishers to adopt the use of circle hooks and to follow ‘‘releasing hooked turtles’’ guidelines (Goodwin, 2008), although it is unclear how effective these regulations are. McCoy (2008) suggests that sea turtle bycatch is occurring in tuna fisheries in the Cook Islands; however, no information is provided on possible extent of sea turtle take or the species that are possibly taken. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15322 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules b. Marine Debris and Pollution Direct or indirect disposal of anthropogenic waste introduces potentially lethal materials into green turtle foraging habitats. Green turtles will ingest plastic, monofilament fishing line, and other marine debris (Bjorndal et al., 1994), and the effects may be lethal or non-lethal, resulting in varying effects that may increase the probability of death (Balazs, 1985; Carr, 1987; McCauley and Bjorndal, 1999). Marine debris presents a threat to green turtles in American Samoa (Aeby et al., 2008; USFWS, 2014; Tagarino et al., 2008). It is potentially hazardous to adults and hatchlings and is present at Rose Atoll (USFWS, 2014). It is also a threat at nearby inhabited islands. Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa is seriously polluted, and uncontrolled effluent contaminants have impaired water quality in some coastal waters (Aeby et al., 2008). Effects to coastal habitat (e.g., reefs) from sedimentation related to development and runoff are significant potential threats in American Samoa, and human population pressures place strains on shoreline resources (Aeby et al., 2008). Ship groundings (e.g., at Rose Atoll in 1993) that damage reef habitat and spill fuel and other contaminants, degradation of coastal waters due to siltladen runoff from land and nutrient enrichment from human discharges and wastes, and contamination by heavy metals and other contaminants are threats to green turtles in American Samoa (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; USFWS, 2014). In Fiji, Weaver (1996) identified potential threats to sea turtles from heavy metals and industrial waste, organic loadings in coastal areas, plastic bags, and leachate poisoning of seagrass foraging areas. In the Cook Islands, White (2012) noted possible issues with oil, tar, or toxic chemicals and terrestrial run-off into lagoons at Rarotonga, and Bradshaw and Bradshaw (2012) note pollution (e.g., accumulation of plastics on the beach) on Mauke (M.White, unpubl. data, www.honucookislands .com). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Climate change has the potential to greatly affect green turtles. Potential impacts of climate change on green turtles include loss of beach habitat from rising sea levels, repeated inundation of nests, skewed hatchling sex ratios from rising incubation temperatures, and abrupt disruption of ocean currents used for natural dispersal (Fish et al., 2005, 2008; VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). A recent study of 27 atoll islands in the central Pacific (including Kiribati and Tuvalu), demonstrated that 14 percent of islands decreased in area over a 19–60 year time span (Webb and Kench, 2010). This occurred in a region considered most vulnerable to sea-level rise (Nicholls and Cazenave, 2010) during a period in which sea-levels rose 2 mm per year. Catastrophic natural environmental events, such as cyclones or hurricanes, may affect green turtles in the Central South Pacific Ocean, and may exacerbate issues such as decreased available habitat due to sea level rise. These types of events may disrupt green turtle nesting activity (Van Houtan and Bass, 2007), even if just on a temporary scale. In summary, within Factor E, we find that incidental fishery bycatch, interactions with recreational and commercial vessels, marine pollution as well as the increasing threat of climate change, and major storm events are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the Central South Pacific DPS There are many islands and atolls in the range of this DPS spread across an expansive area. Conservation efforts, such as establishment of protected areas, exist that are beneficial to green turtles. It is unclear how well conservation efforts such as protected areas and the national legislation relating to green turtles are working. It appears that the remoteness of some of the areas is providing the most conservation protection for certain threats. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central South Pacific DPS The Central South Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically widespread nesting at very low levels of abundance, mostly in remote low-lying oceanic atolls. Nesting is reported in 57 different locations, although some abundance numbers are 20 years old or older. By far the highest nesting abundance estimate is from Scilly Atoll, French Polynesia (1,050 nesting females), but this estimate is from 1991 data and abundance of nesting females has reportedly significantly declined in the past 30 years as a result of commercial exploitation. There are also no long-term monitoring programs that PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 have been active in this DPS for even a 5-year period. While the dispersed location of nesting sites might provide a level of habitat diversity and population resilience which reduces overall extinction risk, this contribution is reduced by the low population size of these sites (only Scilly Atoll has over 225 nesting females) and overall population size of fewer than 3,000 nesting females. Chronic and persistent illegal harvest is a concern in the Central South Pacific DPS, and sea level rise is a threat that is expected to increase in the future. Indeed, climate change may affect this DPS more than any other because nearly all nesting sites exist on low-lying atolls. Sea level rise is expected to exacerbate beach erosion, inundations, and storm surge on small islands (IPCC, 2007). The loss of habitat as a result of climate change could be accelerated due to a combination of other environmental and oceanographic changes such as an increase in the intensity of storms and/ or changes in prevailing currents, both of which could lead to increased beach loss via erosion (Kennedy et al., 2002; Meehl et al., 2007). For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central South Pacific DPS as endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance and exposure to increasing threats, we find that this DPS is presently in danger of extinction throughout its range. XVI. Central North Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central North Pacific DPS The range of the Central North Pacific DPS covers the Hawaiian Archipelago and Johnston Atoll. It is bounded by a four-sided polygon with open ocean extents reaching to 41° N., 169° E. in the northwest corner, 41° N., 143° W. in the northeast, 9° N., 125° W. in southeast, and 9° N., 175° W. in the southwest (Figure 2). The Hawaiian Archipelago is the most geographically isolated island group on the planet. From 1965 to 2013, 17,536 green turtles were tagged, including all post-pelagic size classes from juveniles to adults. With only three exceptions, the 7,360 recaptures of these tagged turtles have been made within the Hawaiian Archipelago. The three outliers involved a recovery in Japan, one in the Marshall Islands and one in the Philippines. The principal nesting site for green turtles in the Central North Pacific DPS is FFS, where 96 percent of the population (3,710 of 3,846 nesting females) currently nests (Balazs, 1980; Lipman and Balazs, 1983). However, nesting was historically abundant at E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules various sites across the archipelago as recently as 1920 (Kittinger et al., 2013), and remnant nesting aggregations may have existed in the MHIs as recently as the 1930s, but were no longer present in the 1970s (Balazs, 1976). Current nesting by green turtles occurs in low numbers (3–36 nesting females at any one site) throughout the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) at Laysan, Lisianski, Pearl and Hermes Reef, and very uncommonly at Midway. Since 2000, green turtle nesting on the MHI has been identified in low numbers (1– 24) on seven islands (Frey et al., 2013; Kittinger et al., 2013; NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, unpublished data, 2013). Green turtles in the Central North Pacific DPS bask on beaches throughout the NWHI and in the MHI. Since nesting surveys were initiated in 1973, there has been a marked increase in annual green turtle nesting at East Island, FFS, where approximately 50 percent of the nesting on FFS occurs (Balazs and Chaloupka, 2004, 2006). During the first 5 years of monitoring (1973–1977), the mean annual nesting abundance was 83 females, and during the most recent 5 years of monitoring (2009–2012), the mean annual nesting abundance was 464 females (Balazs and Chaloupka, 2006; G. Balazs, NMFS, unpublished data). This increase over the last 40 years corresponds to an annual increase of 4.8 percent. Information on in-water abundance trends is consistent with the increase in nesting (Balazs, 2000; Balazs et al., 2005; Balazs et al., 1996). This linkage is to be expected since genetics, satellite telemetry, and direct observation show that green turtles from the nesting beaches in the FFS nesting site remain resident to foraging pastures throughout the archipelago (Balazs, 1976; Craig and Balazs, 1995; Keuper-Bennett and Bennet, 2000; P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). The number of immature green turtles residing in foraging areas of the eight MHI has increased (Balazs et al., 1996). In addition, although the causes are not totally clear, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of basking turtles in the Hawaiian Islands over the last 2 decades, both in the southern foraging areas of the main islands (Balazs et al., 1996) as well as at northern foraging areas at Midway Atoll (Balazs et al., 2005). With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central North Pacific DPS has been extensive and representative, given that there are few nesting populations in this region. Results of mtDNA analysis indicate a low level of spatial structure with regard VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 to minor nesting around the MHI and the NWHI, and the same haplotypes occur throughout the range of the DPS. Within the NWHI, studies show no significant differentiation (based on mtDNA haplotype frequency) between FFS and Laysan Island (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). An analysis by Frey et al. (2013) of the low level of scattered nesting on the MHI (Moloka‘i, Maui, O‘ahu, Lana‘i and Kaua‘i; mtDNA and nDNA) showed that nesting in the MHI might be attributed to a relatively small number of females that appear to be related to each other, and demographically isolated from FFS. Frey et al. (2013) suggest that the nesting population at the MHI may be the result of a few recent founders that originated from the FFS breeding population. Demographic studies of green turtles do not reveal any structuring of traits within the DPS. With regard to diversity and resilience, because nesting in the Central North Pacific DPS is unusually concentrated at one site, there is little diversity in nesting areas. Balazs (Balazs, 1980) reported that the distribution of green turtles in the Hawaiian Archipelago has been reduced within historical times, and Kittinger et al. (2013) suggest that a significant constriction in the spatial distribution of important reproduction sites presents a challenge to the population’s future and makes this DPS highly vulnerable. Further, the primary nesting site, FFS, is a low-lying coral atoll that is susceptible to erosion, geomorphological changes and sea level rise, and has already lost significant nesting area (Baker et al., 2006). B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central North Pacific DPS 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or Range a. Terrestrial Zone In Hawai‘i, most nesting currently occurs in the NWHI, although nesting is increasing in the MHI, as is basking of green turtles. Coastal development and construction, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, beach pollution, tourism, and other human related activities are current threats to nesting and basking habitat in the MHI. These threats will affect more green turtles in this DPS if nesting increases in the MHI. Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the insular Pacific, including Hawai‘i, and this expansion is exerting increased pressure on limited island resources. Climatic changes in the NWHI pose threats through reduction in area of PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15323 nesting beaches critical to this DPS (Baker et al., 2006). Baker et al. (2006) examined the potential effects of sea level rise in the NWHI and found that the primary nesting area for the Central North Pacific population will be negatively impacted by sea level rise through possible loss of nesting habitat. For example, Whale-Skate Island at French Frigate Shoals was formerly a primary green turtle nesting site for this DPS, but the island has subsided and is no longer available for nesting (Kittinger et al., 2013). Trig, Gin, and Little Gin could lose large portions of their area, concentrating nesting even further at East Island (Baker et al., 2006). b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones Impacts to the quality of coastal habitats in the MHI are a threat to this DPS and are expected to continue and possibly increase with an increasing human population and annual influx of millions of tourists. Loss of foraging habitat or reduction in habitat quality in the MHI due to nearshore development is a threat to this DPS. Marina construction, beach development, siltation of forage areas, contamination of forage areas from anthropogenic activities, resort development or activities, increased vessel traffic, and other activities are all considered threats to this population and its habitat (Bowen et al., 1992; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Friedlander et al., 2006; Wedding and Friedlander, 2008; Wedding et al., 2008; Van Houtan et al., 2010). Seagrass and coral reef habitat of Moloka‘i has been degraded from upland soil erosion and siltation, and coral reefs of Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i, Lana‘i, Maui, and O‘ahu have been degraded by sedimentation, sewage, or coastal construction (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In general, MHI coral reefs have suffered from landbased sources of pollution, overfishing, recreational overuse, and alien and invasive species (Friedlander et al., 2005). Vessel groundings (mechanical damage to habitat and reef-associated organisms) and related release of contaminants (e.g., fuel, hazardous substances, etc.) are a threat to Central North Pacific green turtle habitat (Keller et al., 2009). It is difficult to predict the exact number or severity of vessel groundings expected in any future year, but key nesting and foraging habitat for green sea turtles occurs in the areas of the MHI and the NWHI where commercial and recreational boating occurs (Keller et al., 2009). During the last century, habitat on Johnston Atoll was affected by military activities such as nuclear testing and chemical weapons incineration. The lingering effects of these activities E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15324 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules include water contamination from nutrients, dioxins, plutonium, and a subsurface plume of PCB-contaminated petroleum product (Balazs, 1985). In summary, within Factor A, we find that the loss of nesting beach habitat is a threat to the DPS in the NWHI. We find that coastal development and construction, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, beach pollution, tourism, and other human related activities are threats in the MHI. Climate change, marina construction, contamination of forage areas from anthropogenic activities, resort development or activities, increased vessel traffic are significant, increasing threats posing a risk to the persistence of this DPS. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes Harvest of green turtles has been illegal since green turtles were listed under the ESA in 1978. It is possible that human take today is underreported, as anecdotal information suggests that some degree of illegal take occurs throughout the MHI. The extent of such take is unknown; however, it is believed that current illegal harvest of green turtles for human consumption continues in a limited way, although Federal and State cooperative efforts and existing legislation appear to be minimizing the threat. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation The FP disease affects green turtles found in the Central North Pacific Ocean (Francke et al., 2013). This disease results in internal and/or external tumors (fibropapillomas) that may grow large enough to hamper swimming, vision, feeding, and potential escape from predators. FP appears to have peaked in some areas of Hawai‘i, remained the same in some regions, and increased in others (Van Houtan et al., 2010). Environmental factors may be significant in promoting FP, and eutrophication (increase in nutrients) of coastal marine ecosystems may promote this disease (Van Houtan et al., 2010). FP remains an important concern in some green turtle populations. This is particularly true given the continued, and possibly future increasing, human impacts to, and eutrophication of, coastal marine ecosystems that may promote this disease. However, its effects on reproductive effort are uncertain. Ghost crabs (Ocypode spp.) prey on hatchlings at FFS (Niethammer et al., 1997) at approximately 5 percent (Balazs, 1980). Large grouper (Epinephelus tauvina), sea birds, and sharks are documented natural VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 predators of green turtles in Hawai‘i; however, the extent of predation is unknown (Balazs, 1995; Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Francke, 2013). Mongoose, rats, dogs, feral pigs, and cats—all introduced species—that exist on the MHI are known to prey on eggs and hatchlings, although the impact on the current low level of nesting is unclear (nesting in the MHI is extremely low compared to historical levels). If nesting in the MHI increases, the importance of the threat from these potential predators would increase. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms Regulatory mechanisms that protect green turtles are in place and include State, Federal, and international laws. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. Numerous Federal and State governmental and non-governmental efforts at public education, protection and monitoring of green turtles contribute to the conservation of the Central North Pacific DPS. At least 16 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Central North Pacific. Nesting occurs exclusively within the United States. Monitoring and protective efforts are ongoing for both nesting areas (in the NWHI and where nesting is occurring in the MHI) and in nearshore waters. Regulatory mechanisms in U.S. jurisdiction are in place through the ESA, MSA and the State of Hawai‘i that currently address direct and incidental take of Central North Pacific green turtles, and these regulatory mechanisms have been an important factor in the encouraging trend in this DPS. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was established in January 2009, and is cooperatively managed by the Secretary of Commerce (NOAA) and the Secretary of the Interior (USFWS), with the exception of Wake Island and Johnston Atoll, which are currently managed by the Department of Defense. The areas extend 92.6 km from the mean low water lines around emergent islands and atolls and include green turtle habitat. Commercial fishing is prohibited within the limits of the Monument, and recreational fishing requires a permit. On September 27, 2014, President Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 9173 to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Monument to incorporate waters and submerged lands at Jarvis Island, Wake Island, and Johnston Atoll to the seaward limit of the U.S. Exclusive PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Economic Zone (EEZ). Proclamation 9173 prohibits commercial fishing in expanded areas of the Monument, and directs the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce to ensure that recreational and non-commercial fishing continue to be managed as sustainable activities in the Monument. The protected areas provide some protection to sea turtles and their habitat through permitted access and its remoteness. A commercial ban on turtle harvest was put into place by the State of Hawai‘i in 1974, 4 years before the green turtle was listed under the ESA. Since 1978, green turtles have been protected by the ESA. They are also protected by the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, Chapter 195D (Hawai‘i State Legislature, accessed Sept. 10, 2010) and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules, 13–124 (Hawai‘i Administrative Rules, accessed Sept. 10, 2010), which adopt the same definitions, status designations, and prohibitions as the ESA and carry additional penalties for violations at the State government level. These two statutes have been, and currently are, key tools in efforts to recover and protect this DPS, and both have provided for comprehensive protection and recovery activities that have been sufficiently effective to improve the status of green turtles in Hawai‘i significantly. The ESA and Hawai‘i statutes are not, however, redundant. For example, the ESA requires Federal agencies to consult with the Services on their actions that may affect green turtles. Current monitoring, conservation efforts, and legal enforcement have been effective and promote the persistence of the Central North Pacific DPS, which occurs almost exclusively in U.S. waters. It is important to note, however, that the analysis by the SRT did not consider the scenario in which current laws or regulatory mechanisms were not continued. Under the ESA, regulatory measures provide protections that are not provided entirely by State protections. For instance, if the DPS was delisted and the protections of the ESA were no longer in place, many on-theground conservation and monitoring actions and, importantly, financial resources that are afforded by the ESA (e.g., section 6) would not continue. In addition, the taking of green turtles in the United States requires authorization under sections 7 or 10 of the ESA and their implementing regulations. For example, activities that affect green turtles and do not involve Federal agencies, such as coastal development, construction, and research, must comply with section 10 of the ESA to avoid violating the statute. Section 10 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules permits require avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to green turtles to the extent possible. Federal actions (i.e., those authorized, funded, or carried out by Federal agencies), are subject to consultation with the Services under section 7 of the ESA; those resulting in take of green turtles are required to minimize effects. These actions include, but are not limited to, federally regulated fisheries and management and research activities within the federally-protected ¯ ¯ Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the NWHI. The threat of bycatch in international fisheries is not adequately regulated, although bycatch in domestic Federal fisheries has been addressed to a greater extent. In addition, some threats to the species, such as climate change, are either not able to be regulated under the ESA, or not regulated sufficiently to control or even slow the threat. The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear The SRT identified incidental capture in fisheries as a significant threat to green turtles of the Central North Pacific DPS. The primary gear types involved in these interactions include longlines and nets. These are employed by both artisanal and industrial fleets, and target a variety of species. i. Longline Fisheries Pacific longline fisheries capture green turtles as bycatch in longline gear (line, hooks), and these interactions can result in mortality (NMFS, 2012). U.S. longline fisheries are required to comply with sea turtle mitigation measures (50 CFR 665.812), including the use of circle hooks, dehookers, line clippers, and crewmember training, that have reduced green sea turtle interactions to negligible levels. However, while exact numbers are not available, it is estimated that, at a minimum, 100 green turtles from the Central North Pacific DPS are captured and killed annually by foreign longlines (NMFS, 2012). ii. Gillnet Fisheries Interactions between Central North Pacific green turtles and nearshore fisheries in the MHI can result in entanglement, injury, and mortality. Balazs et al. (1987) documented sea turtle mortality resulting from bycatch VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 in fishing gear over 25 years ago in Hawai‘i. While gill nets are regulated by the state of Hawai‘i, fishers are only required to inspect them completely every two hours, so entanglement and drowning does occur (NMFS, 2012). Each year green sea turtles are incidentally entangled in net gear, some of these resulting in mortality (e.g., Francke, 2013); however the reported strandings in the MHI are believed to be a smaller subset of the actual level of interaction with this gear. iii. Other Gear Types Hook-and-line fishing from shore or boats also hooks and entangles green turtles (Francke et al., 2013; NMFS, 2012). Interactions with nearshore recreational fisheries are identified in the NMFS stranding database as those turtles that strand as a result of interactions with fish hooks and fishing line. Nearshore fishery interactions have increased over time (Francke, 2013; Francke et al., 2013; Ikonomopoulou et al., 2013). While current public outreach efforts by NMFS and its partners attempt to reduce the magnitude of impact on green turtles from hook-and-line fishing, injury or mortality from the hooking or from the effects of line remaining on turtles that are cut free or break the line remains an issue (http://pifscblog.wordpress.com/ 2013/06/07/marine-turtle-responseachieves-significant-milestone/). b. Marine Debris and Pollution The ingestion of and entanglement in marine debris is another anthropogenic threat to Central North Pacific green turtles throughout their range. Marine debris is common in the MHI and a direct threat to sea turtles (Wedding and Friedlander, 2008). Stranding information for this DPS shows that entanglement in lost or discarded fishing line is one of the causes of green turtle strandings and mortality in the MHI. In the NWHI, marine debris is also a threat in the terrestrial and marine environment. In 1996, it was estimated that between 750 and 1,000 tons of marine debris were on reefs and beaches in the NWHI, and the source of much of the debris is fishing nets discarded or lost in the northeastern Pacific Ocean (Keller et al., 2009). Turtles in the MHI encounter pollution as a result of coastal development, runoff, and waste water (point source and non-point source pollution; Friedlander et al., 2008). c. Vessel Interactions As in other parts of the world, boating activities are a threat to turtles within this DPS (Francke et al., 2013). Chaloupka et al. (2008b) report that 2.5 PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15325 percent of green turtle strandings (N = 3,745) were caused by boat strike in the Hawaiian Archipelago from 1982 to 2003. Additionally, boat traffic has been shown to exclude green turtles from preferred coastal foraging pastures (Seminoff et al., 2002c), which may negatively affect their nutritional intake. Vessel groundings (mechanical damage to habitat and reef-associated organisms) and related release of contaminants (e.g., fuel, hazardous substances, etc.) are a threat not only to Central North Pacific green turtle habitat, but directly to the turtles themselves. Thirteen reported vessel groundings have occurred in the NWHI in the last 60 years (Keller et al., 2009). Vessel traffic and presence can also have negative effects through habitat damage from anchors, waste discharge, light and noise (Keller et al., 2009). d. Effects of Climate Change As in other areas of the world, climate change and sea level rise have the potential to negatively affect green turtles in the Central North Pacific DPS. Climate change influences on water temperatures, ocean acidification, sea level and related changes in coral reef habitat, wave climate and coastal shorelines are expected to continue (Friedlander et al., 2008). Keller et al. (2009) suggest that sea level rise, changing storm dynamics, sea surface temperatures, and ocean acidification are key threats for the NWHI, and that evidence of sea level rise has already begun to adversely affect terrestrial and ocean habitat. Tiwari et al. (2010) argued that East Island itself is still not yet at carrying capacity, in the sense of crude nesting area and current nesting densities. Yet entire islands have been submerged in recent history (i.e., WhaleSkate in the late 1990s), resulting in the loss of a primary nesting site at FFS (Baker et al., 2006). It is likely that sea level rise will lead to increased erosion of nesting beaches and significant loss of habitat (Baker et al., 2006; IPCC, 2007); however, it remains unclear how nesting habitat loss and natal homing traits will influence future nesting in this DPS. As temperatures increase, there is concern that incubation temperatures could reach levels that exceed the thermal tolerance for embryonic development, thus increasing embryo and hatchling mortality (Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Fuller et al., 2010). Niethammer et al. (Niethammer 1997) note that given that the FFS nesting colony is on the northern extreme of green turtle breeding range, small changes in beach conditions (e.g., microhabitats of nests) may have severe E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15326 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 consequences on nesting. Changes in global temperatures could also affect juvenile and adult distribution patterns. Possible changes to ocean currents and dynamics may result in negative effects to natural dispersal during a complex life cycle (Van Houtan and Halley, 2011), and possible nest mortality linked to erosion may result from increased storm frequency (Van Houtan and Bass, 2007) and intensity (Keller et al., 2009). While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). e. Effects of Spatial Structure While the nesting population trajectory in the Central North Pacific DPS is positive and encouraging, the DPS exhibits moderately low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting females), and more than 96 percent of nesting occurs at one site in the NWHI (FFS). Therefore, survival of this DPS is currently highly dependent on successful nesting at FFS (Niethammer et al., 1992). The concentrated nature and relatively small size of the nesting population make it vulnerable to random variation and stochasticities in the biological and physical environment, including natural catastrophes, as well as changes in climate and resulting effects such as sea level rise. This increases its risk of extinction, even though the DPS may currently have positive population growth (e.g., Meffe et al., 1994; Primack, 1998; Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Hunter and Gibbs, 2007). That said, aside from sea level rise, FFS is relatively isolated from anthropogenic threats, as it occurs ¯ ¯ within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a remote Monument that has controlled access for activities that occur within it. The regional range expansion into nesting areas in the MHI provide increased spatial diversity and may buffer against the loss of nesting sites at FFS; however, nesting areas in the MHI are exposed to anthropogenic threats. Within Factor E, we find that incidental bycatch in fishing gear, marine pollution, interactions with recreational and commercial vessels, climate change, beach driving, and major storm events all negatively affect green turtles in the Central North Pacific VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 DPS. The consideration of climate change, and the fact that the one isolated atoll, where approximately 96 percent of green turtles within this DPS nest, is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, increase the risk of extinction for this DPS. C. Conservation Efforts for the Central North Pacific DPS The State of Hawai‘i’s efforts to conserve green turtles include: Wildlife regulations; coordination of stranding response and specimen storage on the islands of Maui, Hawai‘i, and Kaua‘i; issuance and management of special activity permits; statewide outreach and education activities; and nest monitoring on Maui (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2013). Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources staff responds to stranded turtle reports and issues special use permits to researchers and educators. The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement investigates reports of illegal poaching, provides support and security at some nest sites and strandings, and addresses complaints from the public regarding turtle disturbances. With regard to conservation areas, the ¯ ¯ Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the NWHI is a conservation area established in 2006 that encompasses coral reefs, islands and shallow water environments. It comprises several previously existing Federal conservation areas, including the NWHI Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, NWHI Marine Refuge, State Seabird Sanctuary at Kure Atoll and the Battle of Midway National Memorial. The Monument is administered jointly by three cotrustees: NOAA, the USFWS, and the State of Hawai‘i. The Monument’s mission is to carry out seamless integrated management to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of NWHI ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations. Commercial fishing is prohibited in the Monument and all other human activities require a permit. Overall, conservation efforts have been successful in this DPS, as exhibited by the increasing trend in the green turtle population. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central North Pacific DPS The Central North Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically PO 00000 Frm 00056 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 concentrated nesting (96 percent of nesting occurs at one location) and moderately low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting females). Such a low number is the result of chronic historical exploitation, which extirpated 80 percent of historically major nesting grounds (Kittinger et al., 2013). The DPS is geographically and chronologically well-sampled, with no sites where nesting is unquantified, and very little chance there are undocumented nesting locations. Time series analysis of nesting female abundance over 40 years at FFS shows a marked increase in nesting since surveys were initiated in 1973, with an encouraging annual rate of increase of 4.8 percent. However, 96 percent of nesting now occurs at one atoll (FFS)—where sea level rise is a significant concern—and no more than 40 females nest at any of the other 11 sites. Information on in-water abundance trends is consistent with the increase in nesting. The Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in its population trend, but that there are concerns about overall abundance, spatial structure, and diversity/resilience. Indeed, in spite of the positive trends in the last few decades, the unprecedented concentration of nesting at one site and moderately low population size raise serious concerns about the resilience of this DPS, particularly its ability to adapt to future climate scenarios. Ninety-eight percent of the population nests are low lying atolls (96 percent nesting in a single low-lying atoll), making them extremely vulnerable to sea level rise— some effects of which have already been witnessed. Keller et al. (2009) suggest that sea level rise, changing storm dynamics, sea surface temperatures, and ocean acidification are key threats for the NWHI. Current and projected maps of four islands in the NWHI predicted a sea level rise ranging from 9 cm to 88 cm by 2100, with a projected loss of nesting beach at approximately 15 to 26 percent (IPCC, 2001). Further, sea level rise is expected to continue at a rate exceeding that observed during 1971– 2010 as a result of increased ocean warming and increased loss of glacier and ice sheet mass (IPCC, 2013). Baker et al. (2006) examined the potential effects of sea level rise in the NWHI and found that the primary nesting area for the Central North Pacific population is threatened by sea level rise through possible loss of nesting habitat. They note that one formerly significant nesting site—Whale-Skate Island—is now completely submerged. They further note that the islets of Trig, Gin and Little Gin could lose large portions E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules of their area, concentrating nesting even further at East Island. In contrast, Tiwari et al. (2010) argued that East Island itself is still not yet at carrying capacity, in the sense of crude nesting area and current nesting densities. It remains unclear how catastrophic nesting habitat loss and natal homing traits will influence future nesting in this DPS. Habitat degradation resulting from the release of contaminants contained in landfills and other areas of the NWHI could also occur as the islands erode or are flooded from sea level rise (Keller et al., 2009). Other effects of climate change include increasing temperatures at nesting beaches that may affect hatchling sex ratios and embryonic development (Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Fuller et al., 2010b). Making this an even greater concern is that climate change and the resultant sea level rise are difficult to regulate and certainly cannot be sufficiently regulated through the ESA to slow its effects. In summary, despite an upward trend in population abundance, the Central North Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically concentrated nesting and low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting females). The lack of redundancy in nesting sites and the low nesting numbers at these sites lead to low resilience within this DPS. The consideration of climate change, and the fact that the one isolated atoll, where approximately 96 percent of green turtles within this DPS nest, is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, increase the risk of extinction. For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central North Pacific DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of the increasing nesting trend; however, the continued threats coupled with a small and narrowly distributed nesting population are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 XVII. East Pacific DPS A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Pacific DPS The range of the East Pacific DPS extends from the California/Oregon border (41 °N) southward along the Pacific coast of the Americas to central Chile (40 °S). Green turtles originating from this DPS regularly strand along the shoreline of Oregon and Washington. The northern and southern boundaries of this DPS extend from the aforementioned locations in the United States and Chile to 142 °W and 96 °W, respectively. The offshore boundary of this DPS is a straight line between these two coordinates. This DPS encompasses VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 the Revillagigedos Archipelago, Mexico ´ and the Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador (Figure 2). The East Pacific DPS also includes the Mexican Pacific coast breeding population, which is currently listed as endangered (43 FR 32800, July 28, 1978). Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. We identified 40 total nesting sites for which abundance information is available, although there are sporadic nesting events in other areas with undocumented abundance. The largest nesting aggregation is found in Colola, ´ Michoacan, Mexico, with 11,588 nesting females, or nearly 58 percent of the total nesting population (Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012). The second ´ largest site is in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, where nesting at the four primary nesting sites (Quinta Playa and Barahona (Isabela Island), Las Bachas (Santa Cruz Island), and Las Salinas (Baltras Island)) has been stable to slightly increasing since the late 1970s, and was last estimated at 3,603 nesting ` females in 2005 (Zarate et al., 2006; ` Zarate, unpubl. data). Other nesting ´ areas are found in Michoacan, including Bahia Maruata (1,149; Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012) and Motin de Oro (240; Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012); Clarion and Socorro Islands in the Revillagigedos Archipelago, Mexico (500; Blanco and ´ Santidrian, 2011); and 26 sites throughout the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, including Playa San Jose in the Bat Islands (498; L. Fonseca, unpubl. data), Playa Colorada (498; L. Fonseca, unpubl. data), Nombre Jesus (450; ´ Blanco and Santidrian, 2011), Playa ´ Cabuyal (273; P. Santidrian-Tomillo, Leatherback Trust, pers. comm., 2013), Playa Zapotillal (150; Blanco and ´ Santidrian, 2011) and Playa Nancite (123; Fonseca et al., 2011). Low level nesting (fewer than 100 nesting females) occurs elsewhere in Mexico, Costa Rica, mainland Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru, although the last two are unquantified (G. TiburciosPintos, Minicipio de Los Cabos, pers. comm., 2012; S. Kelez, ecOceanica, pers. comm., 2012). Nesting at the largest beach in the ´ range of this DPS (Colola, Michoacan, Mexico) has shown an upward trend since 1996. The observed increase at Colola may have resulted from the onset of nesting beach protection in 1979—as is suggested by the similarity in timing between the onset of beach conservation and the age-to-maturity for green turtles in Pacific Mexico. The initial upward turn in annual nesting was seen in 1996, about 17 years after the initiation of a nesting beach protection program PO 00000 Frm 00057 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15327 ´ (Cliffton et al., 1982; Alvarado-Dıaz et al., 2001), and growth data from the Gulf of California suggest that green turtles in this DPS mature at 15–25 years (Seminoff et al., 2002a). Although not a clear cause of the increasing nesting trend, the consistency in timing is nonetheless compelling. The presidential decree protecting all sea turtles of Mexico (Pesca, 1990) certainly helped the situation, but this occurred much later than the start of nesting beach conservation. It is more likely that this national legislation has had its greatest positive impact at the foraging areas, where green turtle hunting was once rampant. With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the eastern Pacific has been extensive and the coverage in this region is substantial considering the relatively low population sizes of most eastern Pacific nesting sites. Within this DPS there is significant population substructuring. Four regional genetic stocks have been identified in the eastern Pacific (P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data): Revillagigedos ´ Archipelago (Mexico), Michoacan ´ (Mexico), Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador). There is a relatively high level of spatial structure and the presence of rare/unique haplotypes at each nesting site stock. Green turtles from multiple nesting beach origins commonly mix at feeding areas in the Gulf of California (Nichols, 2003; P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data). A recent study using nuclear single nucleotide polymorphisms (a DNA sequence variation occurring commonly within a population) and microsatellite markers investigated the genetic stock structure among five Pacific green turtle nesting populations. They found significant structure between their two eastern ´ Pacific sample sites (Galapagos and Mexico), suggesting that male-mediated gene flow between regional nesting stocks is limited (Roden et al., 2013). Flipper tag recoveries show 94 tag returns from foraging areas that were applied at two primary nesting sites, ´ ´ Michoacan Mexico and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Two apparent groupings suggest some North/South structure. Forty-nine satellite tracks of green turtles in the eastern Pacific show apparent track clustering in Northwest Mexico to Southern United States, and in the Southeast Pacific, from the ´ Galapagos Islands to the high seas and to the Central American mainland. There are too few satellite tracks to provide solid information on spatial structure. Within-region variation in demographic features also suggests a level of spatial structure for the East Pacific DPS. Among all nesting E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15328 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules assemblages in the East Pacific DPS, the Revillagigedos Islands stands out as uniquely different from the remaining areas. With regard to diversity and resilience, the East Pacific DPS has substantial nesting at both insular and continental nesting sites. The presence of year round nesting at some sites, and non-overlapping nesting seasons at others, suggest that the nesting phenology of green turtles in this DPS may help buffer in geologic time against climate change, both in terms of increased mean incubation temperatures on beaches and in terms of impact to storms and other seasonal events. The ´ nesting season in Michoacan runs from ´ October through January (Alvarado-Dıaz and Figueroa, 1990); in the Revillagigedos Islands nesting occurs from March through November with a peak in April/May (Awbrey et al., 1984; ´ Brattstrom, 1982) and in the Galapagos, nesting occurs year-round with a peak ´ from January to March (Zarate et al., 2013). Year-round nesting has also been confirmed for some areas in Costa Rica. There is a range of beach shade levels depending on the nesting beach. At some sites such as those in the Revillagigedos Islands and beaches in Mexico, the beaches have little vegetation and nests are commonly laid in full-sun areas. On the other hand, the beaches in Costa Rica are highly shaded and nests are commonly deposited deep in the coastal scrub bushes and trees. There are also intermediate sites, such ´ as those in the Galapagos, which have a mix of full sun and shade sites on any given beach. While the exposed beaches are more likely to suffer from the impacts of climate change, those in shaded areas may be subjected to less heating. traffic during the nesting season (Seminoff, 1994). Nest destruction due to human presence is also a threat to ´ nesting beaches in the Galapagos Islands ´ (Zarate et al., 2006). However, such ´ threats vary by site (Zarate, 2012). Insular sites have very low levels of human interference at nesting beaches, although turtles may be affected in foraging areas. The low impacts at insular nesting sites suggest that these areas may serve as nesting refugia if management regimes change and/or poaching at continental sites increases. 1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of its Habitat or Range b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones With respect to environmental degradation in the marine environment, coastal habitats along the continental and insular shores of the eastern Pacific are relatively pristine, although green turtles in San Diego Bay, at the north edge of their range, have high levels of contaminants (Komoroske et al., 2011; 2012). However, the nutrient flow and structure within seagrass communities in many coastal areas are likely modified today due to the depletion of green turtles which, during times of higher abundance, would have been keystone consumers in these habitats (Bjorndal, 1980; Thayer et al., 1992; Seminoff et al., 2012b). Although the impacts of ongoing and proposed human activities are difficult to quantify, recent human population increases in many areas underscore the need to develop and implement management strategies that balance development and economic activities with the needs of green turtles. In summary, within Factor A we find that the East Pacific DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices. We also find that coastal development, beachfront lighting, and heavy foot traffic consistently affect hatchlings and nesting turtles on a small portion of this DPS. a. Terrestrial Zone The largest threat on nesting beaches in the East Pacific DPS is reduced availability of habitat due to heavy armament and subsequent erosion. In addition, while nesting beaches in Costa Rica, Revillagigedos Islands, and the ´ Galapagos Islands are less affected by coastal development than green turtle nesting beaches in other regions around the Pacific, several of the secondary ´ green turtle nesting beaches in Mexico suffer from coastal development. For example, effects of coastal development are especially acute at Maruata, a site with heavy tourist activity and foot 2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or Educational Purposes In some countries and localities within the range of the East Pacific DPS, harvest of green turtle eggs is legal, while in others it is illegal but persistent due to lack of enforcement. The impact of egg harvest is exacerbated by the high monetary value of eggs, consistent market demand, and severe poverty in many of the countries in the Eastern Pacific Region where sea turtles are found. Egg harvest is a major conservation challenge at several sites in Costa Rica, including Nombre de mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Pacific DPS VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00058 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 Jesus and Zapotillal Beaches, where 90 percent of the eggs were taken by egg collectors during one particular study (Blanco, 2010). Egg harvest is also believed to occur at unprotected nesting sites in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua (NMFS and USFWS, 2007). Indeed, green turtles are hunted in many areas of northwest Mexico despite legal protection (Nichols et al., 2002; Seminoff et al., 2003; J. Seminoff, NMFS, pers. obs., 2012). Mancini and Koch (2009) describe a black market that killed tens of thousands of green turtles each year in the Eastern Pacific Region. Sea turtles were, and continue to be, harvested primarily for their meat, although other products have served important non-food uses. Sea turtle oil was for many years used as a cold remedy and the meat, eggs and other products have been highly-valued for their aphrodisiacal qualities, beliefs that strongly persist in the countries bordering the East Pacific DPS. 3. Factor C: Disease or Predation FP is virtually non-existent in green turtles within the East Pacific DPS (Koch et al., 2007), and predation occurs ´ at low levels. In the Galapagos Islands there is depredation on eggs and hatchlings by feral pigs (Sus sp.) and beetles (order Coleoptera), although ´ predation levels are not reported (Zarate et al., 2003; 2006). There are accounts of jaguars (Panthera onca) killing adult female green turtles (L. Fonseca, National University of Costa Rica, unpubl. data, 2009) at beaches in Costa Rica, but this is not a major problem for the DPS. 4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and the United States. In addition, at least 10 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the East Pacific DPS. Overall, regulatory mechanisms for green turtles in the East Pacific DPS are inconsistent. While there are numerous substantive and/or improving conservation efforts, especially on the primary nesting beaches, and this may be reflected in the recent increases in the number of nesting females, many concerns remain due to limited enforcement of existing laws and marine protected areas as well as extensive fishery bycatch, especially in coastal waters. The analysis of existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules levels; however, some regulatory mechanisms, including laws and international treaties, are not realizing their full potential because they are not enforced adequately in all countries occupied by the DPS. While most of the major nesting beaches are monitored, some of the management measures in place are inadequate and may be inappropriate. On some beaches, hatchling releases are coordinated with the tourist industry or nests are being trampled on or are unprotected. The largest threat on the nesting beaches, reduced availability of habitat due to heavy armament and subsequent erosion, is just beginning to be addressed, but without immediate attention may ultimately result in the demise of the highest density beaches. Further, it is suspected that there are substantial impacts from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which we are unable to mitigate without additional fisheries management efforts and international collaborations. While conservation projects for this population have been in place since 1978 for some important areas, efforts in other areas are still being developed to address major threats, including fisheries bycatch and long-term nesting habitat protection. Bycatch has not been thoroughly evaluated but it is largely known that most fishermen either improperly implement TEDs or remove them entirely from their trawls. As was the case with sea turtle meat and egg collection, an almost total lack of enforcement of bycatch mitigation measures by local authorities only helps to confound the problem. Additionally, TEDs are not a requirement for artisanal shrimping boats which, with today’s technology, are becoming more ‘industrial’ in ability and have been reported to catch large numbers of sea turtles. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction technologies. The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address impacts to the nesting beach, marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued Existence a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a significant threat to the survival of green turtles throughout the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The primary gear types involved in these interactions include longlines, drift nets, set nets, and trawl fisheries. These are employed by both artisanal and industrial fleets, and target a wide variety of species including tunas (Thunnus sp.), sharks (class Chondrichthyes), sardines (Sardinella sp.), swordfish (Xiphias gladius), and mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly areas in the southern portion of the range of this DPS, significant bycatch has been reported in artisanal gill net and longline shark and mahi mahi fisheries operating out of Peru (Kelez et al., 2003; Alfaro-Shigueto et al., 2006) and, to a lesser extent, Chile (Donoso and Dutton, 2010). The fishing industry in Peru is the second largest economic activity in the country and, over the past few years, the longline fishery has rapidly increased. During an observer program in 2003/2004, 588 sets were observed during 60 trips, and 154 sea turtles were taken as bycatch. Green turtles were the second most common sea turtle species in these interactions. In many cases, green turtles are kept on board for human consumption; therefore, the mortality rate in this artisanal longline fishery is likely high because sea turtles are retained for future consumption or sale. Koch et al. (2006) reported green turtle bycatch-related dead strandings numbering in the hundreds in Bahia Magdalena. In Baja California Sur, Mexico, from 2006–2009 small-scale gill-net fisheries caused massive green turtle mortality at Laguna San Ignacio, where Mancini et al. (2012) estimated that over 1,000 turtles were killed each year in nets set for guitarfish. Bycatch in coastal areas occurs principally in shrimp trawlers, gill nets and bottom longlines (e.g., Orrego and Arauz, 2004). However, since 1996, all countries from Mexico to Ecuador declared the use of TEDs as mandatory for all industrial fleets to meet the requirements to export shrimp to the United States under the U.S. MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Helvey and Fahy, 2012). Since then, bycatch has not been thoroughly evaluated but it is widely believed that most fishers either improperly implement TEDs or remove them entirely from their trawls. PO 00000 Frm 00059 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15329 Additionally, TEDs are not required for artisanal shrimping boats, which with today’s technology, are becoming more ‘industrial’ in ability and have been reported to catch large numbers of sea turtles (A. Zavala, Universidad de Sinaloa, pers. comm., 2012). Bottom-set longlines and gill nets, both artisanal and industrial, also interact frequently with sea turtles, and can have devastating mortality rates, such as has been the case in artisanal fisheries of Baja California, Mexico (Peckham et al., 2007). In purse seine fisheries, which typically target tuna and other large pelagic fish species, the highest rate of turtles are captured with ‘‘log sets’’ around natural floating objects or Fish Aggregation Devices (Hall, 1998). b. Pollution Other threats such as debris ingestion (Seminoff et al., 2002c) and boat strikes (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2012; NMFS stranding records, unpubl.) also affect green turtles in the Eastern Pacific. Red tide poisoning is also a threat to this species (Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012). c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters Effects of climate change include, among other things, sea surface temperature increases, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). However, at the primary ´ nesting beach in Michoacan, Mexico (Colola), the beach slope aspect is extremely steep and the dune surface at which the vast majority of nests are laid is well-elevated. This site is likely buffered against short-term sea level rise as a result of climate change. In addition, many nesting sites are along protected beach faces, out of tidal surge pathways. For example, multiple nesting sites in Costa Rica and in the ´ Galapagos Islands are on beaches that are protected from major swell coming in from the ocean. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15330 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that occurs throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from nearshore gill net fisheries, is a significant threat to the persistence of this DPS. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 C. Conservation Efforts for the East Pacific DPS There are a multitude of NGOs and conservation networks whose efforts are raising awareness about sea turtle conservation. Protection of green turtles is provided by local marine reserves throughout the region. In addition, sea turtles may benefit from the following broader regional efforts: (1) The Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) Marine Corridor (CMAR) Initiative supported by the governments of Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador, which is a voluntary agreement to work towards sustainable use and conservation of marine resources in these countries’ waters; (2) the ETP Seascape Program managed by Conservation International that supports cooperative marine management in the ETP, including implementation of the CMAR; (3) the IATTC and its bycatch reduction efforts that are among the world’s finest for regional fisheries management organizations; (4) the IAC, which is designed to lessen impacts on sea turtles from fisheries and other human impacts; and (5) the Permanent Commission of the South Pacific (Lima Convention), which has developed an ‘‘Action Plan for Sea Turtles in the Southeast Pacific.’’ There are indications that wildlife enforcement branches of local and national governments are stepping up their efforts to enforce existing laws, although successes in stemming sea turtle exploitation through legal channels are few and far between. D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Pacific DPS The East Pacific DPS is characterized by moderate levels of green turtle nesting abundance (>20,000 nesting females) occurring in three primary regions, with Mexico having the largest number of nesting females at several sites (13,664 nesting females), followed ´ by the Galapagos, Ecuador (3,603 nesting females), and Costa Rica (2,826 nesting females distributed among 26 nesting sites). Although trend information is lacking for the vast majority of sites, 25 years of monitoring ´ at Michoacan, Mexico—the largest nesting aggregation in this DPS—shows an increasing trend since the population’s low point in the mid1980s. In addition to Mexico, data from VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 ´ the Galapagos Archipelago suggest a stable trend, and the largest-ever nesting numbers reported in Costa Rica suggest this site may be on the increase as well. Genetic and demographic data show some substructuring among the populations, and nesting is welldistributed in the East Pacific DPS, occurring from the tip of the Baja California Peninsula to northern Peru. Such a broad latitudinal range may be advantageous to green turtles in this DPS in the face of global climate change. Likewise, with year round nesting at several sites and non-overlapping nesting seasons at others, it appears that this DPS may benefit from nesting season temporal diversity in relation to population resilience. Lastly, nesting at both continental and insular sites provides a degree of diversity as well as resilience, with some insular sites providing relatively threat-free nesting refugia within this DPS’s range. Nevertheless, green turtles continue to be affected by a variety of threats within the range of the East Pacific DPS. These include harvest of eggs and turtles for food and non-food uses, bycatch in coastal and offshore marine fisheries gear, coastal development, beachfront lighting, and heavy foot traffic. Although the situation has improved to some extent, the harvest of turtles and their eggs continues throughout much of the range, although more problematic ´ outside of the Galapagos Islands, particularly in Central America (egg harvest) and Mexico (harvest of foraging turtles). Mortality from diseases such as FP is not a problem in the Eastern Pacific, but depredation by natural predators is a very large concern, ´ particularly in the Galapagos and, to a lesser extent, in Costa Rica. Green turtle interactions and mortalities with coastal and offshore fisheries in the eastern Pacific region are of concern and are considered an impediment to green turtle recovery in the East Pacific DPS. Yet despite these concerns, the largest nesting sites appear to be increasing. Conservation actions, national laws, and international instruments have provided the foundation for what appears to be an ongoing population recovery in the region, particularly in Mexico, although work remains to ensure continued recovery. Further, our analysis did not consider the scenario in which current laws or regulatory mechanisms were not continued. Given the conservation dependence of the species, without mechanisms in place to continue conservation efforts and funding streams in this DPS, some threats could increase and population trends could be affected. PO 00000 Frm 00060 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 For the above reasons, we propose to list the East Pacific DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction presently because of high nesting abundance and increasing trends; however, the continued threats from coastal and offshore fisheries are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future. XVIII. Proposed Determinations Section 4(b)(1) of the ESA requires that the Services make listing determinations based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available after conducting a review of the status of the species and taking into account those efforts, if any, being made by any state or foreign nation, or political subdivisions thereof, to protect and conserve the species (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(1)). We have reviewed the best available scientific and commercial information, including information included in the petition, the status review report, and other published and unpublished information; and we have consulted with species experts and individuals familiar with green turtles and their habitat. Based on the best available scientific and commercial information, we identify 11 green turtle DPSs: Central North Pacific, North Atlantic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-West Pacific, Central West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central South Pacific, and East Pacific. We find that the purposes of the Act would be furthered by managing this wideranging species as separate units under the DPS authority, in order to allow for enhanced protections where needed. Based on a review of the five factors contained in ESA section 4(a)(1), we find that the best available science supports the listing status of ‘‘endangered’’ for three of the DPSs and therefore conclude that the species as a whole no longer meets the definition of a ‘‘threatened species’’ throughout its range. We propose to remove the current species-wide listing and to list 11 DPSs as threatened or endangered. We propose to list the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East Pacific DPSs as threatened, and the Mediterranean, Central West Pacific, and Central South Pacific DPSs as endangered for the reasons described above for each DPS. Regarding the February 16, 2012 petition from the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to identify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS and ‘‘delist’’ the DPS under the E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules ESA, as described above we conclude that the petitioned entity qualifies as a DPS (Central North Pacific DPS), but that the DPS should be listed as threatened for the reasons discussed above. We therefore deny the petition seeking its delisting. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 XIX. Significant Portion of the Range Under the ESA and our implementing regulations, a species may warrant listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a significant portion of its range. See the Final Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase ‘‘Significant Portion of Its Range’’ in the Endangered Species Act’s Definitions of ‘‘Endangered Species’’ and ‘‘Threatened Species’’ (79 FR 37577, July 1, 2014). Under that policy, we only need to consider whether listing may be appropriate on the basis of the ‘‘significant portion of its range’’ language if the rangewide analysis does not lead to a determination to list as threatened or endangered. Because we have determined that each DPS of green turtle is either threatened or endangered throughout all of its range, no portion of its range can be ‘‘significant’’ for purposes of the definitions of ‘‘endangered species’’ and ‘‘threatened species.’’ XX. Effects of Listing Conservation measures provided for species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA include, but are not limited to, recovery plans and actions (prepared pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1536(f)) and the actions recommended in them; designation of critical habitat if prudent and determinable (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(A)(i)); Federal agency requirements to consult with the Services and to ensure its actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)); and prohibitions on taking (16 U.S.C. 1538). Recognition of the species’ plight through listing promotes conservation actions by Federal and state agencies, foreign entities, private groups, and individuals. Should the proposed listings be made final, a recovery plan or plans may be developed, unless we find that such plan would not promote the conservation of the species. A. Identifying Section 7 Conference and Consultation Requirements Section 7(a)(4) (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(4)) of the ESA and its implementing regulations (50 CFR 402) require Federal agencies to confer with the Services on actions likely to jeopardize the VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 continued existence of species proposed for listing, or that result in the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a proposed species is ultimately listed, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to consult with the Services on any action they authorize, fund, or carry out if those actions may affect the listed species or its critical habitat; Federal agencies must insure that such actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or result in destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2); 50 CFR 402). Because green turtles are currently listed throughout their range, requirements for initiating consultation will not change if the current listing is reclassified and revised to reflect recognition of multiple DPSs. Examples of Federal actions that affect green turtles include, but are not limited to: Dredging and channelization, beach and nearshore construction, pile-driving, water quality standards, power plants, vessel traffic, military activities, and fisheries management practices. B. Critical Habitat Section 3(5)(A) of the ESA defines critical habitat as ‘‘(i) the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at the time it is listed . . . on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time it is listed . . . upon a determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)).’’ Section 3(3) of the ESA also defines the terms ‘‘conserve,’’ ‘‘conserving,’’ and ‘‘conservation’’ to mean ‘‘to use and the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this chapter Act are no longer necessary (16 U.S.C. 1532(3)).’’ Section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of the ESA, as amended, and implementing regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)), require that, to the maximum extent prudent and determinable, the Secretary shall designate critical habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or threatened species. Designations of critical habitat must be based on the best scientific data available and must take into consideration the economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of PO 00000 Frm 00061 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 15331 specifying any particular area as critical habitat (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(2)). The Services’ regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation of critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following situations exist: (1) The species is threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of threat to the species, or (2) such designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species. The identification and mapping of critical habitat is not expected to increase the degree of threat from human activity, such as take of turtles or eggs. In the absence of finding that the designation of critical habitat would increase threats to a species, a finding that designation may be prudent is warranted if there are any benefits to a critical habitat designation. Here, the potential benefits of designation would include (1) Triggering consultation under section 7 of the ESA for Federal actions in unoccupied designated critical habitat; (2) focusing conservation activities on the most essential features and areas; (3) providing educational benefits to State or county governments or private entities; and (4) preventing people from causing inadvertent harm to the species. Because we have determined that the designation of critical habitat will not likely increase the degree of threat to the species and may provide some measure of benefit, we determine that designation of critical habitat may be prudent for the green turtle, subject to review of information in connection with the designation. Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(2)) state that critical habitat is not determinable when one or both of the following situations exists: (1) Information sufficient to perform required analysis of the impacts of the designation is lacking; or (2) the biological needs of the species are not sufficiently well known to permit identification of an area as critical habitat. At this point, we are still in the process of acquiring the information needed to assess the critical habitat designation. Accordingly, we find designation of critical habitat to be not determinable at this time. A final regulation designating critical habitat is generally due concurrently with a final regulation listing a species as endangered or threatened (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(6)(C)). The statute does not mandate that the proposed rule to designate critical habitat has to be published concurrent with the proposed listing rule, and thus a proposed rule designating critical habitat may be E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 15332 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules published following the proposed listing rule (but at least 90 days before the intended effective date of the rule (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(5)(A)). Upon a finding that designation of critical habitat is not determinable, the Services have an additional year to finalize a proposed critical habitat designation (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(6)(C)(ii)). In effect, then, the Services have up to one year following final listing of the species to finalize a critical habitat designation where such habitat is initially not determinable. To ensure that the Services may make a timely proposal based on the best scientific and commercial information available, we invite public input on features and areas that may meet the definition of critical habitat for the DPSs proposed for listing that occur in U.S. waters or its territories. These include the North Atlantic (southeastern United States and Puerto Rico), South Atlantic (U.S. Virgin Islands), Central South Pacific (American Samoa), Central West Pacific (CNMI and Guam), Central North Pacific, and East Pacific DPSs (California). The Services previously designated critical habitat for green turtles in waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico from the mean high water line seaward to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km; 63 FR 46693, September 2, 1998). These waters include Culebra’s outlying Keys, including Cayo Norte, Cayo Ballena, ´ Cayos Geniquı, Isla Culebrita, Arrecife ˜ Culebrita, Cayo de Luis Pena, Las Hermanas, El Mono, Cayo Lobo, Cayo Lobito, Cayo Botijuela, Alcarraza, Los Gemelos, and Piedra Steven, and are within the range of the North Atlantic DPS. The ESA does not speak directly to the status of designated critical habitat when the agency later amends a species listing by dividing it into constituent DPSs. Notably, critical habitat does not lose its biological and conservation relevance to the relevant listed DPS (here, the North Atlantic) simply because the species listing is amended. Moreover, carrying forward an existing critical habitat designation can enhance the protection provided to the listed DPS because the carried-forward designation protects habitat features essential to the species’ recovery from destruction or adverse modification in section 7 consultations. Given that Congress has not spoken directly to this issue in the statute, we find that the benefits of designated critical habitat, the ESA’s broad purpose to conserve the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend, and taking a reasonable precautionary approach, the ESA should be construed to provide in VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 these circumstances for keeping existing critical habitat designation in place as a transitional matter until the designation is re-promulgated or amended through a further rulemaking. Therefore, critical habitat remains in effect for the listed North Atlantic DPS in order to preserve its conservation value, as the designated critical habitat continues to support the DPS’s important biological functions (e.g., foraging habitat, developmental habitat, and shelter/refuge from predators). The Services have not designated critical habitat within the range of the other ten green turtle DPSs. C. Take Prohibitions All of the take prohibitions of section 9(a)(1) of the ESA (16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)) will automatically apply to the three DPSs proposed to be listed as endangered, the Mediterranean, Central West Pacific and Central South Pacific, if the proposal to list them as endangered is finalized. These include prohibitions against importing, exporting, engaging in foreign or interstate commerce, or ‘‘taking’’ of the species. ‘‘Take’’ is defined under the ESA as ‘‘to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. § 1532(19)).’’ These prohibitions apply to any ‘‘person’’ (as defined by the ESA) subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, including in the United States, its territorial sea, or on the high seas. Certain exceptions apply to employees of the Services, other Federal land management agencies, and State conservation agencies. In addition, 50 CFR part 224.104 would apply to the proposed endangered DPSs. Some of the current provisions apply only to areas in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Atlantic; however, future provisions may apply to any endangered DPS, without regard to its geographic boundaries. In the case of threatened species, ESA section 4(d) authorizes the Secretary to issue regulations deemed necessary and appropriate for the conservation of species. The Services already have in place take prohibitions and exceptions that apply to threatened species of sea turtles, set forth at 50 CFR 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, and 223.207. These existing take prohibitions and exceptions will continue to remain in effect and apply to those DPSs listed as threatened, which are the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East Pacific DPSs. Pursuant to section 10 of the ESA, we may issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities involving PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 endangered and threatened wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 223.206. With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit may be issued for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the species, and for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful activities. There are also certain statutory exemptions from the prohibitions, which are found in sections 9 and 10 of the ESA. D. Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a Violation of Section 9 of the ESA On July 1, 1994, the Services published a policy (59 FR 34272) that requires us to identify, to the maximum extent practicable at the time a species is listed, those activities that would or would not constitute a violation of section 9 of the ESA. The intent of this policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a listing on proposed and ongoing activities within a species’ range. We will identify, to the extent known at the time of the final rule, those specific activities that, although they may appear to pose impacts to the species, will not be considered likely to result in violation of section 9, as well as activities that will be considered likely to result in violation. Based on currently available information, we conclude that the activities most likely to violate the section 9 prohibitions against ‘‘take’’ of endangered green turtle DPSs include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Importation or exportation of any part of a green turtle or green turtle eggs; (2) directed take of green turtles, including fishing for, capturing, handling, or possessing green turtles, eggs, or parts; (3) sale of green turtles, eggs, or parts; (4) destruction or modification of green turtle habitat, including nesting beaches, beaches used for basking, and developmental, foraging habitat, and migratory habitat that actually kills or injures green turtles (50 CFR 222.102); and (5) indirect take of green turtles in the course of otherwise lawful activities, such as fishing, dredging, coastal construction, vessel traffic, and discharge of pollutants. We emphasize that whether a violation results from a particular activity depends upon the facts and circumstances of each incident. The mere fact that an activity may fall within one of these categories does not mean that the specific activity will cause a violation; due to such factors as location and scope, specific actions may not result in direct or indirect adverse effects on the species. Further, an E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15333 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules activity not listed may in fact result in a violation. We also emphasize that because the green turtle is currently listed, we do not anticipate changes in the activities that would constitute a violation of section 9. Possible exceptions include those actions affecting the breeding populations in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico, which were heretofore listed as endangered. Under the final rule, these populations would become part of the threatened North Atlantic and East Pacific DPSs, respectively, and therefore will be protected by the existing protective regulations. XXI. Peer Review The intent of the peer review policy is to ensure that listings are based on the best scientific and commercial data available. In December 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review establishing minimum peer review standards, a transparent process for public disclosure of peer review planning, and opportunities for public participation. The OMB Bulletin, implemented under the Information Quality Act (Public Law 106–554), is intended to enhance the quality and credibility of the Federal government’s scientific information, and applies to influential or highly influential scientific information disseminated on or after June 16, 2005. To satisfy our requirements under the OMB Bulletin, we obtained independent peer review of the status review report from 15 independent specialists in the academic and scientific community. All peer reviewer comments were addressed prior to dissemination of the final status review report and publication of this proposed rule. XXII. Classification A. National Environmental Policy Act The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 657 F. 2d 829 (6th Cir. 1981), NOAA has concluded that ESA listing actions are not subject to the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (See NOAA Administrative Order 216–6). Similarly, USFWS has determined that environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, as defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act, need not be prepared in connection with regulations pursuant to section 4(a) of the ESA. USFWS published a notice outlining its reasons for this determination in the Federal Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). B. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork Reduction Act As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered when assessing the status of a species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to the listing process. In addition, this proposed rule is exempt from review under Executive Order 12866. This proposed rule does not contain a collection-of-information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act. C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism In accordance with E.O. 13132, we determined that this proposed rule does not have significant Federalism effects and that a Federalism assessment is not required. In keeping with the intent of the Administration and Congress to provide continuing and meaningful dialogue on issues of mutual state and Federal interest, this proposed rule will be given to the relevant state agencies in each state in which the species is Species Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened Historic range Common name Scientific name * * * Status * believed to occur, and those states will be invited to comment on this proposal. We have considered, among other things, Federal, State, and local conservation measures. As we proceed, we intend to continue engaging in informal and formal contacts with the State, and other affected local or regional entities, giving careful consideration to all written and oral comments received. List of Subjects 50 CFR Part 17 Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. 50 CFR Parts 223 and 224 Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Transportation. Dated: March 11, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. Dated: February 25, 2015. Stephen Guertin, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 17, 223, and 224 are proposed to be amended as follows: PART 17—ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS 1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361–1407; 1531– 1544; and 4201–4245, unless otherwise noted. 2. In § 17.11(h) revise the entry for ‘‘Sea turtle, green’’, which is in alphabetical order under REPTILES, to read as follows: ■ § 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife. * * * * * (h) The ‘‘List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife’’ is provided below: Critical habitat When listed * * Special rules * mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 REPTILES * Sea turtle, green (Central North Pacific DPS). VerDate Sep<11>2014 * Chelonia mydas 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 * Central North Pacific Ocean. Jkt 235001 PO 00000 * Green sea turtles originating from the Central North Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 41° N., 169° E. in the northwest; 41° N., 143° W. in the northeast; 9° N., 125° W. in the southeast; and 9° N., 175° W. in the southwest. Frm 00063 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 * T * [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 NA * 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 15334 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Species Historic range Common name Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened Status When listed Green sea turtles originating from the Central South Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 9° N., 175° W. in the northwest; 9° N., 125° W. in the northeast; 40° S., 96° W. in the southeast; 40° S., 176° E. in the southwest; and 13° S., 171° E. in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Central West Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 41° N., 146° E. in the northwest; 41° N., 169° E. in the northeast; 9° N., 175° W. in the east; 13° S., 171° E. in the southeast; along the northern coast of the island of New Guinea; and 4.5° N., 129° E. in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Eastern Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 41° N. Lat. in the north, 41° N., 146° E. in the northeast; 4.5° N., 129° E. in the southeast; along the southern coast of the island of New Guinea; along the western coast of Australia (west of 142° E. Long.); 40° S. Lat. in the south; and 84° E. Long. in the east. Green sea turtles originating from the East Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 41° N., 143° W. in the northwest; 41° N. Lat. in the north; along the western coasts of the Americas; 40° S. Lat. in the south; and 40° S., 96° W. in the southwest. Green sea turtles originating from the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by 5.5° W. Long. in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the North Atlantic Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 48° N. Lat. in the north, along the western coasts of Europe and Africa (west of 5.5° W. Long.); north of 19° N. Lat. in the east; 19° N., 63.5° W. in the south; 10.5° N., 77° W. in the west; and along the eastern coasts of the Americas (north of 7.5° N., 77° W.). Green sea turtles originating from the North Indian Ocean, bounded by: Africa and Asia in the west and north; 84° E. Long. in the east; and the equator in the south. E [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 E [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 E [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 Scientific name Chelonia mydas Central South Pacific Ocean. Sea turtle, green (Central West Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas Central West Pacific Ocean. Sea turtle, green (East Indian-West Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas Eastern Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Sea turtle, green (East Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas East Pacific Ocean Sea turtle, green (Mediterranean DPS). Chelonia mydas Mediterranean Sea Sea turtle, green (North Atlantic DPS). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Sea turtle, green (Central South Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas North Atlantic Ocean Sea turtle, green (North Indian DPS). Chelonia mydas North Indian Ocean VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 T T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 Critical habitat Special rules 226.208 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 15335 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Species Vertebrate population where endangered or threatened Historic range Common name Scientific name Sea turtle, green (South Atlantic DPS). Chelonia mydas South Atlantic Ocean Sea turtle, green (Southwest Indian DPS). Chelonia mydas Southwest Indian Ocean Sea turtle, green (Southwest Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas Southwestern Pacific Ocean * * Status When listed Green sea turtles originating from the South Atlantic Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: along the northern and eastern coasts of South America (east of 7.5° N., 77° W.); 10.5° N., 77° W. in the west; 19° N., 63.5° W. in the northwest; 19° N. Lat. in the northeast; 40° S., 19° E. in the southeast; and 40° S. Lat. in the south. Green sea turtles originating from the Southwest Indian Ocean, bounded by the following lines: the equator to the north; 84° E. Long. to the east; 40° S. Lat. to the south; and 19° E. Long (and along the eastern coast of Africa) in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: along the southern coast of the island of New Guinea and the Torres Strait (east of 142° E Long.); 13° S., 171° E. in the northeast; 40° S., 176° E. in the southeast; and 40° S., 142° E. in the southwest. T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 T [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207 * * * PART 223—THREATENED MARINE AND ANADROMOUS SPECIES 3. The authority citation for part 223 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531–1543; subpart B, § 223.201–202 also issued under 16 U.S.C. 4. Amend the table in § 223.102(e) by revising the entry ‘‘Sea turtle, green’’ under Sea Turtles to read as follows: * SEA TURTLES 2 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Sea turtle, green (Central North Pacific DPS). VerDate Sep<11>2014 Scientific name * Chelonia mydas ..... 18:10 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 * Frm 00065 Fmt 4701 * * * Sfmt 4702 * (e) The threatened species under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Commerce are: Critical habitat * Green sea turtles originating from the Central North Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 41° N., 169° E. in the northwest; 41° N., 143° W. in the northeast; 9° N., 125° W. in the southeast; and 9° N., 175° W in the southwest. PO 00000 * Citation(s) for listing determination(s) Description of listed entity * * § 223.102 Enumeration of threatened marine and anadromous species. Species 1 Common name Special rules * 1361 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 5503(d) for § 223.206(d)(9). ■ Critical habitat * [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 ESA Rules * NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. 15336 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules Species 1 Citation(s) for listing determination(s) Common name Scientific name Description of listed entity Sea turtle, green (East Indian-West Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... Green sea turtles originating from the Eastern Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 41° N. Lat. in the north, 41° N., 146° E. in the northeast; 4.5° N., 129° E. in the southeast; along the southern coast of the island of New Guinea; along the western coast of Australia (west of 142° E. Long.); 40° S. Lat. in the south; and 84° E. Long. in the east. Green sea turtles originating from the East Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 41° N., 143° W. in the northwest; 41° N. Lat. in the north; along the western coasts of the Americas; 40° S. Lat. in the south; and 40° S., 96° W. in the southwest. Green sea turtles originating from the North Atlantic Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: 48° N. Lat. in the north, along the western coasts of Europe and Africa (west of 5.5° W. Long.); north of 19° N. Lat. in the east; 19° N., 63.5° W. in the south; 10.5° N., 77° W. in the west; and along the eastern coasts of the Americas (north of 7.5° N., 77° W.). Green sea turtles originating from the North Indian Ocean, bounded by: Africa and Asia in the west and north; 84° E. Long. in the east; and the equator in the south. Green sea turtles originating from the South Atlantic Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: along the northern and eastern coasts of South America (east of 7.5° N., 77° W.); 10.5° N., 77° W. in the west; 19° N., 63.5° W. in the northwest; 19° N. Lat. in the northeast; 40° S., 19° E. in the southeast; and 40° S. Lat. in the south. Green sea turtles originating from the Southwest Indian Ocean, bounded by the following lines: the equator to the north; 84° E. Long. to the east; 40° S. Lat. to the south; and 19° E. Long (and along the eastern coast of Africa) in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following lines and coordinates: along the southern coast of the island of New Guinea and the Torres Strait (east of 142° E Long.); 13° S., 171° E. in the northeast; 40° S., 176° E. in the southeast; and 40° S., 142° E. in the southwest. Sea turtle, green Chelonia mydas ..... (East Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... Sea turtle, green (North Indian DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... Sea turtle, green (South Atlantic DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... Sea turtle, green (Southwest Indian DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... Sea turtle, green (Southwest Pacific DPS). mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 Sea turtle, green (North Atlantic DPS). Chelonia mydas ..... * * * * Critical habitat ESA Rules [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. 226.08 [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, 223.207. * * 1 Species 17.42(b), 2223.205, 223.206, 223.207. * includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPSs) (for a policy statement, see 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) (for a policy statement, see 56 FR 58612, November 20, 1991). 2Jurisdiction for sea turtles by the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, is limited to turtles while in the water. VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00066 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2 15337 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / Proposed Rules PART 224—ENDANGERED MARINE AND ANADROMOUS SPECIES Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531–1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq. 5. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as follows: ■ § 224.101 Enumeration of endangered marine and anadromous species. 6. Amend § 224.101(h) by revising the entry for ‘‘Sea turtle, green’’ under Sea Turtles to read as follows: ■ Species 1 Common name * SEA TURTLES 2 Scientific name * Sea turtle, green (Central South Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas ......... Sea turtle, green (Central West Pacific DPS). Chelonia mydas ......... Sea turtle, green (Mediterranean DPS). Chelonia mydas ......... * * * * Green sea turtles originating from the Central South Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 9° N., 175° W. in the northwest; 9° N., 125° W. in the northeast; 40° S., 96° W. in the southeast; 40° S., 176° E. in the southwest; and 13° S., 171° E. in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Central West Pacific Ocean, bounded by the following coordinates: 41° N., 146° E. in the northwest; 41° N., 169° E. in the northeast; 9° N., 175° W. in the east; 13° S., 171° E. in the southeast; along the northern coast of the island of New Guinea; and 4.5° N., 129° E. in the west. Green sea turtles originating from the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by 5.5° W. Long. in the west. * * * * * (h) The endangered species under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Commerce are: Citation(s) for listing determination(s) Description of listed entity * * * Critical habitat * ESA rules * [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 [INSERT FR CITATION WHEN PUBLISHED AS A FINAL RULE]. NA 224.104 * * 1 Species * includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPSs) (for a policy statement, see 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) (for a policy statement, see 56 FR 58612, November 20, 1991). 2 Jurisdiction for sea turtles by the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, is limited to turtles while in the water. [FR Doc. 2015–06136 Filed 3–20–15; 8:45 am] mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS2 BILLING CODE 3510–22–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 17:05 Mar 20, 2015 Jkt 235001 PO 00000 Frm 00067 Fmt 4701 Sfmt 9990 E:\FR\FM\23MRP2.SGM 23MRP2

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 55 (Monday, March 23, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 15271-15337]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-06136]



[[Page 15271]]

Vol. 80

Monday,

No. 55

March 23, 2015

Part II





Department of the Interior





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Fish and Wildlife Service





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50 CFR Part 17





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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50 CFR Parts 223 and 224





Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification and Proposed Listing 
of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia 
mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; 
Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 80 , No. 55 / Monday, March 23, 2015 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

[Docket No. 120425024-5022-02]
RIN 0648-XB089


Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification and Proposed 
Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles 
(Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current 
Listings

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce; United States Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS), Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month petition finding; request for comments; 
notice of public hearing.

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SUMMARY: The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas; hereafter referred to as 
the green turtle) is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA) as a threatened species, with the exception of the Florida and 
Mexican Pacific coast breeding populations, which are listed as 
endangered. We, NMFS and USFWS, find that the green turtle is composed 
of 11 distinct population segments (DPSs) that qualify as ``species'' 
for listing under the ESA. We propose to remove the current range-wide 
listing and, in its place, list eight DPSs as threatened and three as 
endangered. We also propose to apply existing protective regulations to 
the DPSs. We solicit comments on these proposed actions.
    Although not determinable at this time, designation of critical 
habitat may be prudent, and we solicit relevant information for those 
DPSs occurring within U.S. jurisdiction. In the interim, we propose to 
continue the existing critical habitat designation (i.e., waters 
surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico) in effect for the North 
Atlantic DPS.
    This proposed rule also constitutes the 12-month finding on a 
petition to reclassify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS 
and to delist that DPS. Although we find the Hawaiian green turtle 
population to constitute a DPS (referred to in this proposed rule as 
the Central North Pacific DPS), we do not find delisting warranted.
    A public hearing will be held in Hawai`i. Interested parties may 
provide oral or written comments at this hearing.

DATES: Comments and information regarding this proposed rule must be 
received by close of business on June 22, 2015. A public hearing will 
be held on April 8, 2015 from 6 to 8 p.m., with an informational open 
house starting at 5:30 p.m. Requests for additional public hearings 
must be made in writing and received by May 7, 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on this document, identified by 
NOAA-NMFS-2012-0154, by the following methods:
     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 
comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal.
    1. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0154.
    2. Click the ``Comment Now!'' icon, complete the required fields.
    3. Enter or attach your comments.

OR

     Mail: Submit written comments to Green Turtle Proposed 
Listing Rule, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries 
Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Room 13535, Silver Spring, MD 20910; 
or Green Turtle Proposed Listing Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 
North Florida Ecological Services Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 
200, Jacksonville, FL 32256.

OR

     Public hearing: Interested parties may provide oral or 
written comments at the public hearing to be held at the Japanese 
Cultural Center, 2454 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96826. 
Parking is available at the Japanese Cultural Center for $5.
    Instructions: Comments sent by any other method, to any other 
address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, 
may not be considered by the Services. All comments received are a part 
of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on 
www.regulations.gov without change. All personal identifying 
information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business 
information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily 
by the sender will be publicly accessible. The Services will accept 
anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if you wish to 
remain anonymous). The proposed rule is available electronically at 
http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/green.htm and http://www.fws.gov/northflorida/seaturtles/turtle%20factsheets/green-sea-turtle.htm.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennifer Schultz, NMFS (ph. 301-427-
8443, email jennifer.schultz@noaa.gov), or Ann Marie Lauritsen, USFWS 
(ph. 904-731-3032, email annmarie_lauritsen@fws.gov). Persons who use a 
Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339, 24 hours a day, and 
7 days a week.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Public Comments Solicited on the Proposed Listing

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal be as 
accurate and effective as possible and informed by the best available 
scientific and commercial information. Therefore, we request comments 
or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 
the scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule. We are seeking information and comments 
on whether each of the 11 proposed green turtle DPSs qualify as DPSs, 
whether listing of each DPS is warranted, and, if so, whether they 
should be classified as threatened or endangered as described in the 
``Listing Determinations Under the ESA'' section provided below. 
Specifically, we are soliciting information on the following subjects 
relative to green turtles within the 11 proposed DPSs: (1) Historical 
and current population status and trends, (2) historical and current 
distribution, (3) migratory movements and behavior, (4) genetic 
population structure, (5) current or planned activities that may 
adversely affect green turtles, (6) conservation efforts to protect 
green turtles, and (7) our extinction risk analysis and findings. We 
request that all data, information, and comments be accompanied by 
supporting documentation such as maps, bibliographic references, or 
reprints of pertinent publications. We will consider comments and new 
information when making final determinations.

Public Comments Solicited on Critical Habitat

    Though we are not proposing to designate critical habitat at this 
time, we request evaluations describing the quality and extent of 
existing habitats within U.S. jurisdiction for the proposed North 
Atlantic, South Atlantic (U.S. Virgin Islands), Central South Pacific 
(American Samoa), Central West Pacific (Commonwealth of the Northern

[[Page 15273]]

Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam), Central North Pacific, and East 
Pacific DPSs, as well as information on other areas that may qualify as 
critical habitat for these proposed DPSs. Specifically, we are 
soliciting the identification of particular areas within the 
geographical area occupied by these species that include physical or 
biological features that are essential to the conservation of these 
DPSs and that may require special management considerations or 
protection (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)(A)(i)). Essential features may include, 
but are not limited to, features specific to individual species' 
ranges, habitats, and life history characteristics within the following 
general categories of habitat features: (1) Space for individual growth 
and for normal behavior; (2) food, water, air, light, minerals, or 
other nutritional or physiological requirements; (3) cover or shelter; 
(4) sites for breeding, reproduction and development of offspring; and 
(5) habitats that are protected from disturbance or are representative 
of the historical, geographical, and ecological distributions of the 
species (50 CFR 424.12(b)). Areas outside the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time of listing should also be 
identified, if such areas are essential for the conservation of the 
species (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)(A)(ii)). Unlike for occupied habitat, such 
areas are not required to contain physical or biological features 
essential to the conservation of the species. ESA implementing 
regulations at 50 CFR 424.12(h) specify that critical habitat shall not 
be designated within foreign countries or in other areas outside of 
U.S. jurisdiction. Therefore, we request information only on potential 
areas of critical habitat within locations under U.S. jurisdiction.
    Section 4(b)(2) of the ESA requires the Secretary to consider the 
``economic impact, impact on national security, and any other relevant 
impact'' of designating a particular area as critical habitat. Section 
4(b)(2) also authorizes the Secretary to conduct a balancing of the 
benefits of inclusion and the benefits of exclusion from a critical 
habitat designation of a particular area, and to exclude any particular 
area where the Secretary finds that the benefits of exclusion outweigh 
the benefits of designation, unless excluding that area will result in 
extinction of the species. Therefore, for features and areas 
potentially qualifying as critical habitat, we also request information 
describing: (1) Activities or other threats to the essential features 
that could be affected by designating them as critical habitat 
(pursuant to section 4(b)(8) of the ESA); and (2) the positive and 
negative economic, national security and other relevant impacts, 
including benefits to the recovery of the species, likely to result if 
these areas are designated as critical habitat. We also seek 
information regarding the conservation benefits of designating areas 
within nesting beaches and waters under U.S. jurisdiction as critical 
habitat. Data sought include, but are not limited to the following: (1) 
Scientific or commercial publications, (2) administrative reports, maps 
or other graphic materials, and (3) information from experts or other 
interested parties. Comments and data particularly are sought 
concerning the following: (1) Maps and specific information describing 
the amount, distribution, and type of use (e.g., foraging or migration) 
by green turtles, as well as any additional information on occupied and 
unoccupied habitat areas; (2) the reasons why any habitat should or 
should not be determined to be critical habitat as provided by sections 
3(5)(A) and 4(b)(2) of the ESA; (3) information regarding the benefits 
of designating particular areas as critical habitat; (4) current or 
planned activities in the areas that might be proposed for designation 
and their possible impacts; (5) any foreseeable economic or other 
potential impacts resulting from designation, and in particular any 
impacts on small entities; and (6) whether specific unoccupied areas 
may be essential to provide additional habitat areas for the 
conservation of the proposed DPSs. We seek information regarding 
critical habitat for the proposed green turtle DPSs as soon as 
possible, but no later than June 22, 2015.

Public Hearings

    The Services will hold a public hearing in Hawai`i. Interested 
parties may provide oral or written comments at this hearing. A public 
hearing will be held on April 8, 2015 from 6 to 8 p.m., with an 
informational open house starting at 5:30 p.m., at the Japanese 
Cultural Center, 2454 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawai`i 96826. 
Parking is available at the Japanese Cultural Center for $5. If 
requested by the public by May 7, 2015, additional hearings will be 
held regarding the proposed listing of the green turtle DPSs. If 
additional hearings are requested, details regarding location(s), 
date(s), and time(s) will be published in a forthcoming Federal 
Register notice.

References

    A complete list of all references cited herein is available upon 
request (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).

Table of Contents

I. Background
II. Policies for Delineating Species Under the ESA
III. Listing Determinations Under the ESA
IV. Biology and Life History of Green Turtles
V. Overview of the Policies and Process Used To Identify DPSs
    A. Discreteness Determination
    1. Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean Sea
    2. Indian Ocean
    3. Pacific Ocean
    B. Significance Determination
    1. North Atlantic
    2. Mediterranean
    3. South Atlantic
    4. Southwest Indian
    5. North Indian
    6. East Indian-West Pacific
    7. Central West Pacific
    8. Southwest Pacific
    9. Central South Pacific
    10. Central North Pacific
    11. East Pacific
    C. Summary of Discreteness and Significance Determinations
VI. Listing Evaluation Process
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Eleven Green 
Turtle DPSs
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs
    C. Conservation Efforts
    D. Extinction Risk Assessments and Findings
VII. North Atlantic DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Atlantic 
DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Atlantic DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    i. Gill Net and Trawl Fisheries
    ii. Dredge Fishing
    b. Channel Dredging
    c. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic
    d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    e. Effects of Cold Stunning
    f. Contaminants and Marine Debris
    C. Conservation Efforts for the North Atlantic DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North 
Atlantic DPS
VIII. Mediterranean DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Mediterranean DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Mediterranean DPS

[[Page 15274]]

    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    i. Longline Fisheries
    ii. Set Net (Gill Net) Fishing
    iii. Trawl Fisheries
    b. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic
    c. Pollution
    d. Effects of Climate Change
    C. Conservation Efforts
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings
IX. South Atlantic DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the South Atlantic 
DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the South Atlantic DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    c. Effects of Climate Change
    C. Conservation Efforts for the South Atlantic DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the South 
Atlantic DPS
X. Southwest Indian DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Southwest Indian 
DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Indian DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Indian DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest 
Indian DPS
XI. North Indian DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Indian DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Indian DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    i. Gill Net Fisheries
    ii. Trawl Fisheries
    b. Vessel Strikes
    c. Beach Driving
    d. Pollution
    e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disaster
    C. Conservation Efforts for the North Indian DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Indian 
DPS
XII. East Indian-West Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Indian-West Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Indian-
West Pacific DPS
XIII. Central West Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central West 
Pacific DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central West Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Vessel Strikes
    c. Pollution
    d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the Central West Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central West 
Pacific DPS
XIV. Southwest Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters in the Southwest Pacific 
DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Shark Control Programs
    c. Boat Strikes and Port Dredging
    d. Pollution and Marine Debris
    e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest 
Pacific DPS
XV. Central South Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central South 
Pacific DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central South Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the Central South Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central South 
Pacific DPS
XVI. Central North Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central North 
Pacific DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central North Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

[[Page 15275]]

    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    i. Longline Fisheries
    ii. Gillnet Fisheries
    iii. Other Gear Types
    b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    c. Vessel Interactions
    d. Effects of Climate Change
    e. Effects of Spatial Structure
    C. Conservation Efforts for the Central North Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central North 
Pacific DPS
XVII. East Pacific DPS
    A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Pacific DPS
    B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Pacific DPS
    1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, 
Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
    a. Terrestrial Zone
    b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, 
Scientific, or Educational Purposes
    3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its 
Continued Existence
    a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    b. Pollution
    c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    C. Conservation Efforts for the East Pacific DPS
    D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Pacific 
DPS
XVIII. Proposed Determinations
XIX. Significant Portion of the Range
XX. Effects of Listing
    A. Identifying Section 7 Conference and Consultation 
Requirements
    B. Critical Habitat
    C. Take Prohibitions
    D. Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a 
Violation of Section 9 of the ESA
XXI. Peer Review
XXII. Classification
    A. National Environmental Policy Act
    B. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and 
Paperwork Reduction Act
    C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

I. Background

    On July 28, 1978, NMFS and USFWS, collectively referred to as the 
Services, listed the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) under the ESA (43 FR 
32800). Pursuant to the authority that the statute provided, and prior 
to the current language in the definition of ``species'' regarding 
DPSs, the Services listed the species as threatened, except for the 
Florida and Mexican Pacific Coast breeding populations, which were 
listed as endangered. The Services published recovery plans for U.S. 
Atlantic (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/recovery/plans.htm) and U.S. 
Pacific (including the East Pacific) populations of the green turtle 
(63 FR 28359, May 22, 1998). NMFS designated critical habitat for the 
species to include waters surrounding Culebra Island, Commonwealth of 
Puerto Rico, and its outlying keys (63 FR 46693, September 2, 1998).
    On February 16, 2012, the Services received a petition from the 
Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to identify the Hawaiian green 
turtle population as a DPS and ``delist'' the DPS under the ESA. On 
August 1, 2012, NMFS, with USFWS concurrence, determined that the 
petition presented substantial information indicating that the 
petitioned action may be warranted (77 FR 45571). Initiating a review 
of new information in accordance with the DPS policy was consistent 
with the recommendation made in the Services' 2007 Green Sea Turtle 5-
year Review. The Services initiated a status review to consider the 
species across its range, determine whether the petitioned action is 
warranted, and determine whether other DPSs could be recognized. The 
Services decided to review the Hawaiian population in the context of 
green turtles globally with regard to application of the DPS policy and 
in light of significant new information since the listing of the 
species in 1978.
    The Services appointed a Status Review Team (SRT) in September 
2012. SRT members were affiliated with NMFS Science Centers and the 
Services' field, regional, and headquarters offices, and provided a 
diverse range of expertise, including green turtle genetics, 
demography, ecology, and management, as well as risk analysis and ESA 
policy. The SRT was charged with reviewing and evaluating all relevant 
scientific information relating to green turtle population structure 
globally to determine whether any populations may qualify as DPSs and, 
if so, to assess the extinction risk for each proposed DPS. Findings of 
the SRT are detailed in the ``Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Status 
Review under the U.S. Endangered Species Act'' (hereinafter referred to 
as the Status Review; NMFS and USFWS, 2014). The Status Review 
underwent independent peer review by 14 scientists with expertise in 
green turtle biology, genetics, or related fields, and endangered 
species listing policy. The Status Review is available electronically 
at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/green.htm.
    This Federal Register document announces the 12-month finding on 
the petition to identify the Hawaiian green turtle population as a DPS 
and remove the protections of the ESA from the DPS, and includes a 
proposed rule to revise the existing listings to identify 11 green 
turtle DPSs worldwide and list them as threatened or endangered under 
the ESA in place of the existing listings. Our determinations have been 
made only after review of the best available scientific and commercial 
information pertaining to the species throughout its range and within 
each DPS. This is similar to the action we took for loggerhead sea 
turtles (76 FR 58868, September 22, 2011).
    The ESA gives us clear authority to make these listing 
determinations and to revise the lists of endangered and threatened 
species to reflect these determinations. Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA 
authorizes us to determine by regulation whether ``any species,'' which 
is expressly defined to include species, subspecies, and DPS, is an 
endangered species or a threatened species based on certain factors. 
Review of the status of a species may be commenced at any time, either 
on the Services' own initiative--through a status review or in 
connection with a 5-year review under Section 4(c)(2)--or in response 
to a petition. Because a DPS is not a scientifically recognized entity, 
but rather one that is created under the language of the ESA and 
effectuated through our DPS Policy (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), we 
have some discretion to determine whether the species should be 
reclassified into DPSs and what boundaries should be recognized for 
each DPS. Section 4(c)(1) gives us authority to update the lists of 
threatened and endangered species to reflect these determinations. This 
can include revising the lists to remove a species or reclassify the 
listed entity.

II. Policies for Delineating Species Under the ESA

    Section 3 of the ESA defines ``species'' as including ``any 
subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population 
segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds 
when mature.'' The term ``distinct population segment'' is not 
recognized in the scientific literature. Therefore, the Services 
adopted a joint policy for recognizing DPSs under the ESA (DPS Policy; 
61 FR 4722) on February 7, 1996. The DPS Policy requires the 
consideration of three elements when evaluating the status of possible 
DPSs: (1) The discreteness of the population segment in relation to the 
remainder of the species to which it belongs; (2) the significance of 
the population segment to the species to which it belongs; and (3) the 
population segment's conservation status in relation to the

[[Page 15276]]

ESA's standards for listing. This is discussed further in the Status 
Review, in the section entitled, ``Overview of Information and Process 
Used to Identify DPSs.''

III. Listing Determinations Under the ESA

    The ESA defines an endangered species as one that is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range 
(section 3(6)), and a threatened species as one that is likely to 
become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range (section 3(20)). Thus, in the context 
of the ESA, the Services interpret an ``endangered species'' to be one 
that is presently in danger of extinction. A ``threatened species,'' on 
the other hand, is not presently in danger of extinction, but is likely 
to become so in the foreseeable future. In other words, the primary 
statutory difference between a threatened and endangered species is the 
timing of when a species may be in danger of extinction, either 
presently (endangered) or in the foreseeable future (threatened).
    When we consider whether a species might qualify as threatened 
under the ESA, we must consider the meaning of the term ``foreseeable 
future.'' It is appropriate to interpret ``foreseeable future'' as the 
horizon over which predictions about the conservation status of the 
species can be reasonably relied upon. The foreseeable future considers 
the life history of the species, habitat characteristics, availability 
of data, particular threats, ability to predict threats, and the 
reliability to forecast the effects of these threats and future events 
on the status of the species under consideration. Because a species may 
be susceptible to a variety of threats for which different data are 
available, or which operate across different time scales, the 
foreseeable future is not necessarily reducible to a particular number 
of years. For the green turtle, the SRT used a horizon of 100 years to 
evaluate the likelihood that a DPS would reach a critical risk 
threshold (i.e., quasi-extinction). In making the proposed listing 
determinations, we applied the horizon of 100 years in our 
consideration of foreseeable future under the scope of the definitions 
of endangered and threatened species, pursuant to section 3 of the ESA.
    The statute requires us to determine whether any species is 
endangered or threatened as a result of any one or combination of the 
following 5-factors: (1) The present or threatened destruction, 
modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence (section 4(a)(1)(A-E) of the ESA). 
Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA requires us to make this determination 
based solely on the best available scientific and commercial data 
available after conducting a review of the status of the species and 
taking into account any efforts being made by States or foreign 
governments to protect the species.

IV. Biology and Life History of Green Turtles

    A thorough account of green turtle biology and life history may be 
found in the Status Review, which is incorporated here by reference. 
The following is a succinct summary of that information.
    The green turtle, C. mydas, has a circumglobal distribution, 
occurring throughout tropical, subtropical, and, to a lesser extent, 
temperate waters. Their movements within the marine environment are not 
fully understood, but it is believed that green turtles inhabit coastal 
waters of over 140 countries (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989). The 
Status Review lists 468 known nesting sites worldwide, with 79 having 
nesting aggregations with greater than 500 females. The largest green 
turtle nesting aggregation, with an estimated number of nesting females 
greater than 132,000, is Tortuguero, Costa Rica (Sea Turtle 
Conservancy, 2013). There are 14 aggregations estimated to have 10,001-
100,000 nesting females: Quintana Roo, Mexico (Julio Zurita, pers. 
comm., 2012); Ascension Island, UK (S. Weber, Ascension Island 
Government, pers. comm., 2013); Poil[atilde]o, Guinea-Bissau (Catry et 
al., 2009); Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles (Mortimer et al., 2011; Mortimer, 
2012; J. Mortimer, unpubl. data.); Moh[eacute]li, Comoros Islands, 
France (Bourjea, 2012); Mayotte, Comoros Islands (Bourjea, 2012); 
Europa, Esparses Islands, France (Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 
2012); Ras Al Hadd, Oman (AlKindi et al., 2008); Ras Sharma, Yemen 
(PERSGA/GEF, 2004); Wellesley Group, Australia (Unpubl. data cited in 
Limpus, 2009); Raine Island, Australia (Chaloupka et al., 2008a; 
Limpus, 2009); Moulter Cay, Australia (Limpus, 2009); Capricorn Bunker 
Group of Islands, Australia (Limpus et al., 2003); and Colola, Mexico 
(Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012).
    Most green turtles spend the majority of their lives in coastal 
foraging grounds. These areas include fairly shallow waters in open 
coastline and protected bays and lagoons. While in these areas, green 
turtles rely on marine algae and seagrass as their primary diet 
constituents, although some populations also forage heavily on 
invertebrates. These marine habitats are often highly dynamic and in 
areas with annual fluctuations in seawater and air temperatures, which 
can cause the distribution and abundance of potential green turtle food 
items to vary substantially between seasons and years (Carballo et al., 
2002).
    At nesting beaches, green turtles rely on beaches characterized by 
intact dune structures, native vegetation, little to no artificial 
lighting, and 26 to 35[deg] C beach temperatures for nesting (Limpus, 
1971; Salmon et al., 1992; Ackerman, 1997; Witherington, 1997; Lorne 
and Salmon, 2007). Nests are typically laid at night at the base of the 
primary dune (Hirth, 1997; Witherington et al., 2006). Complete removal 
of vegetation, or coastal construction, can affect thermal regimes on 
beaches and thus affect the incubation and resulting sex ratio of 
hatchling turtles. Nests laid in these areas are at a higher risk of 
tidal inundation (Schroeder and Mosier, 2000).
    Hatchlings emerge from their nests en masse and almost exclusively 
at night, presumably using decreasing sand temperature as a cue 
(Hendrickson, 1958; Mrosovsky, 1968). Immediately after hatchlings 
emerge from the nest, they begin a period of frenzied activity. During 
this active period, hatchlings crawl to the surf, swim, and are swept 
through the surf zone (Carr and Ogren, 1960; Carr, 1961; Wyneken and 
Salmon, 1992). They orient to waves in the nearshore area and to the 
magnetic field as they proceed further toward open water (Lohmann and 
Lohmann, 2003).
    Upon leaving the nesting beach and entering the marine environment, 
post-hatchling green turtles begin an oceanic juvenile phase during 
which they are presumed to primarily inhabit areas where surface waters 
converge to form local downwellings that result in linear accumulations 
of floating material, especially Sargassum sp. This association with 
downwellings is well-documented for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta 
caretta), as well as for some post-hatchling green turtles 
(Witherington et al., 2006; 2012). The smallest of oceanic green 
turtles associating with these areas are relatively active, moving both 
within Sargassum sp. mats and in nearby open water, which may limit the 
ability of

[[Page 15277]]

researchers to detect their presence as compared to relatively immobile 
loggerheads of the same life stage that associate with similar habitat 
(Smith and Salmon, 2009; Witherington et al., 2012).
    Oceanic-stage juvenile green turtles originating from nesting 
beaches in the Northwest Atlantic appear to use oceanic developmental 
habitats and move with the predominant ocean gyres for several years 
before returning to their neritic (shallower water, generally to 200 m 
depth, including open coastline and protected bays and lagoons) 
foraging and developmental habitats (Musick and Limpus, 1997; Bolten, 
2003). Larger neonate green turtles (at least 15-26 cm straight 
carapace length; SCL) are known to occupy Sargassum sp. habitats and 
surrounding epipelagic waters, where food items include Sargassum sp. 
and associated invertebrates, fish eggs, and insects (Witherington et 
al., 2012). Knowledge of the diet and behavior of oceanic stage 
juveniles, however, is limited.
    The neritic juvenile stage begins when green turtles exit the 
oceanic zone and enter the neritic zone (Bolten, 2003). The age at 
recruitment to the neritic zone likely varies with individuals leaving 
the oceanic zone over a wide size range (summarized in Avens and 
Snover, 2013). After migrating to the neritic zone, juveniles continue 
maturing until they reach adulthood, and some may periodically move 
between the neritic and oceanic zones (NMFS and USFWS, 2007; Parker et 
al., 2011). The neritic zone, including both open coastline and 
protected bays and lagoons, provides important foraging habitat, inter-
nesting habitat, breeding, and migratory habitat for adult green 
turtles (Plotkin, 2003; NMFS and USFWS, 2007). Some adult females may 
also periodically move between the neritic and oceanic zones (Plotkin, 
2003; Hatase et al., 2006) and, in some instances, adult green turtles 
may reside in the oceanic zone for foraging (NMFS and USFWS, 2007; 
Seminoff et al., 2008; Parker et al., 2011). Despite these uses of the 
oceanic zone by green turtles, much remains unknown about how 
oceanography affects juvenile and adult survival, adult migration, prey 
availability, and reproductive output.
    Most green turtles exhibit slow growth rates, which has been 
described as a consequence of their largely herbivorous (i.e., low net 
energy) diet (Bjorndal, 1982). Consistent with slow growth, age-to-
maturity for green turtles appears to be the longest of any sea turtle 
species (Chaloupka and Musick, 1997; Hirth, 1997). Published age at 
sexual maturity estimates are as high as 35-50 years, with lower ranges 
reported for known age turtles from the Cayman Islands (15-19 years; 
Bell et al., 2005) and Caribbean Mexico (12-20 years; Zurita et al., 
2012) and some mark-recapture projects (e.g., 15-25 years in the 
Eastern Pacific; Seminoff et al., 2002a). Mean adult reproductive 
lifespan of green turtles from Australia's southern Great Barrier Reef 
(GBR) has been estimated at 19 years using mark-recapture and survival 
data (Chaloupka and Limpus, 2005). The maximum nesting lifespan 
observed in a 27-year tag return dataset from Trindade Island, Brazil 
was 16 years; however, nesting monitoring was discontinuous over time 
(Almeida et al., 2011). Tag return data comprising 2,077 females 
(42,928 nesting events, 1968-partial 2012 season) from continuous 
monitoring at French Frigate Shoals (FFS), Hawai`i show maximum nesting 
lifespans of 37-38 years (n=2), with many individuals (n=54) documented 
nesting over a minimum of 25-35 years (I. Nurzia-Humburg, S. Hargrove, 
and G. Balazs, NMFS, unpublished data, 2013).

V. Overview of the Policies and Process Used To Identify DPSs

    The SRT considered a vast array of information in assessing whether 
there are any green turtle population segments that satisfy the DPS 
criteria of being both discrete and significant. In anticipation of 
conducting a green turtle status review, NMFS contracted two post-
doctoral associates in 2011 to collect and synthesize genetic and 
demographic information on green turtles worldwide. The SRT was 
presented with, and evaluated, this genetic and demographic 
information. Demographic information included green turtle nesting 
information; morphological and behavioral data; movements, as indicated 
by tagging (flipper and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags) and 
satellite telemetry data; and anthropogenic impacts. Also discussed and 
considered as a part of this analysis were oceanographic features and 
geographic barriers.
    A population may be considered discrete if it satisfies either one 
of the following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other 
populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors; or (2) it is 
delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 
differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 
conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 
significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the ESA (61 FR 4722, 
February 7, 1996). According to the policy, quantitative measures of 
genetic or morphological discontinuity can be used to provide evidence 
for item (1). The SRT compiled a list of attributes that suggested 
various population groups might be considered discrete, identified 
potentially discrete units, and discussed alternative scenarios for 
lumping or splitting these potentially discrete units. After arriving 
at a tentative list of units, each member of the SRT was given 100 
points that could be distributed among two categories: (1) The unit 
under consideration is discrete, and (2) the unit under consideration 
is not discrete. The spread of points reflects the level of certainty 
of the SRT surrounding a decision to call the unit discrete. The SRT 
determined that there are 11 discrete regional populations of green 
turtles globally. Each of these was then evaluated for significance.
    A population may be considered significant if it satisfies any one 
of the following conditions: (1) Persistence of the discrete segment in 
an ecological setting unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) evidence 
that loss of the discrete segment would result in a significant gap in 
the range of the taxon; (3) evidence that the discrete segment 
represents the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be 
more abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside its 
historical range; and (4) evidence that the discrete segment differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics. Because condition (3) is not applicable to green 
turtles, the SRT addressed conditions (1), (2) and (4). The SRT listed 
the attributes that would make potential DPSs (those determined to be 
discrete in the previous step) significant. As in the vote for 
discreteness, members of the SRT were then given 100 points with which 
to vote for whether each unit met the significance criterion in the 
joint policy. All units that had been identified as discrete were also 
determined to be significant.
    For more discussion on the process the SRT used to identify DPSs, 
see Section 3 of the Status Review document.

A. Discreteness Determination

    In evaluating discreteness among the global green turtle 
population, the SRT began by focusing on the physical separation of 
ocean basins (i.e., Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans). The result 
was an evaluation of data by major ocean basins, although it quickly 
became clear that the Indian and Pacific

[[Page 15278]]

Ocean populations overlapped. The evaluation by ocean basin was not to 
preclude any larger or smaller DPS delineation, but to aid in data 
organization and assessment. We organized this section by ocean basin 
to explain the discreteness determination process and results.
    Within each ocean basin, the SRT started by evaluating genetic 
information. The genetic data consisted of results from studies using 
maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), biparentally inherited 
nuclear DNA (nDNA) microsatellite (a section of DNA consisting of very 
short nucleotide sequences repeated many times), and single nucleotide 
polymorphism (a DNA sequence variation occurring commonly within a 
population) markers. Next, the SRT reviewed tagging, telemetry and 
demographic data, and additional information such as potential 
differences in morphology. The SRT also considered whether the 
available information suggests that green turtle population segments 
are separated by vicariant barriers, such as oceanographic features 
(e.g., current systems), or biogeographic boundaries.
    Genetic information that was presented to the SRT resulted from a 
global phylogenetic analysis (analysis based on natural evolutionary 
relationships) based on sequence data from a total of 129 mtDNA 
haplotypes (i.e., mtDNA sequences, which are inherited together) 
identified from approximately 4,400 individuals sampled at 105 green 
turtle nesting sites around the world (Jensen and Dutton, NMFS, 
unpublished data; M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013). Results indicated 
that the mtDNA variation present in green turtles throughout the world 
today occurs within eight major clades (i.e., a group consisting of an 
ancestor and all its descendants) that are structured geographically 
within ocean basins. These clades represent similarities between 
haplotypes on evolutionary timescales as opposed to ecological 
timescales. See Figure 1 for a visual representation of these clades. 
There is divergence among individual haplotypes within each green 
turtle clade (M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013) and discrete 
populations can exist within these clades.
BILLING CODE 3510-22-P

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP23MR15.000

BILLING CODE 3510-22-C
1. Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean Sea
    Two of the eight major mtDNA clades, Clades I and II, are found in 
the Atlantic/Mediterranean region. Clade I includes haplotypes 
primarily found in turtles from the Mediterranean and the western North 
Atlantic. Within Clade I, two strongly divergent groups of haplotypes 
are found, with one group being restricted to the Mediterranean and the 
other being restricted to the western North Atlantic. Mediterranean and 
western North Atlantic turtles share only one specific haplotype that 
has been found in only two individuals, indicating very strong long-
term isolation of females. As such, there is strong evidence that these 
two geographically-separated groups of divergent haplotypes may be 
considered discrete.
    In addition to genetic evidence for discreteness, in the 
Mediterranean, green turtles are spatially separated from populations 
in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, with the nearest known nesting sites 
outside the Mediterranean being several thousand kilometers away in the 
Republic of Senegal (Senegal), and the North Atlantic population being 
more than 8,000 km away. Further, no turtles tagged in the eastern 
Mediterranean have been recovered farther west than the Tunisian 
Republic (Tunisia) inside the Mediterranean. Nesting females from 
Cyprus, Turkey, the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), and the State of 
Israel (Israel) have been satellite tracked to the Arab Republic of 
Egypt (Egypt), Libya, and Turkey--with movements largely restricted to 
the eastern Mediterranean (Godley et al., 2002; Broderick et al., 
2007). Post-nesting turtles from this region migrate primarily along 
the coast from their nesting beach to their foraging and

[[Page 15280]]

overwintering grounds in the Mediterranean (Godley et al., 2002; 
Broderick et al., 2007).
    Demographic evidence of discreteness of Mediterranean green turtles 
lies in the fact that Mediterranean green turtles are the second 
smallest green turtles worldwide (the smallest being in the eastern 
Pacific), with a mean nesting size in Alagadi, Cyprus of 92 cm Curved 
Carapace Length (CCL; Broderick et al., 2003), compared with 95 cm to 
110 cm CCL size range for most other populations.
    In the North Atlantic, tag recovery and telemetry data indicate 
that nesting females primarily reside within the North Atlantic. Some 
nesting females tagged at Tortuguero, Costa Rica were recaptured in the 
South Atlantic (Tro[euml]ng et al., 2005). There is some degree of 
mixing of immature turtles on foraging pastures between the North and 
South Atlantic; however, nesting sites in the eastern Caribbean carry 
mostly mtDNA haplotypes from a different clade (II), indicating strong 
long-term isolation. Tagging studies have identified juveniles from 
this population in waters off Brazil and Argentina, but we found no 
evidence of movement of mature individuals.
    The second clade within the Atlantic Ocean basin, Clade II, 
includes haplotypes found in all South Atlantic nesting sites, some 
eastern Caribbean turtles, and some turtles in the southwest Indian 
Ocean. With a few exceptions, green turtles in the South Atlantic carry 
an mtDNA haplotype that is found nowhere else, indicating strong 
isolation of matrilines over evolutionary time periods. The exceptions 
to this pattern are: (1) One nesting site from the eastern Caribbean, 
which exhibits a low frequency of a haplotype from the North Atlantic/
Mediterranean clade (Clade I); (2) nesting sites from the Gulf of 
Mexico/Central America, which have a low frequency of Clade II 
haplotypes; and (3) two nesting sites from southeast Africa, which have 
high frequencies of Clade II haplotypes. The presence of a shared 
haplotype in South Atlantic and southwest Indian Ocean rookeries 
demonstrates for the first time a recent matrilineal link between 
Atlantic and Indian Ocean green turtle populations (Bourjea et al., 
2007b). However, the SRT believes all these exceptions reflect 
historical events rather than contemporary connectivity. This 
interpretation is supported by satellite telemetry, which reveals 
extensive movements of turtles within the South Atlantic region but no 
evidence for migrations into other areas, other than rare instances of 
movement into foraging areas in the North Atlantic. Long stretches of 
cold water along the coasts of Patagonia and southwest Africa serve to 
isolate South Atlantic turtles from populations in the Indian and 
Pacific Oceans.
    Foraging ground studies in the Atlantic have generally shown 
regional structuring with strong stock contribution from nearby 
regional nesting sites, but little mixing over long distances (Bolker 
et al., 2007). Overall, the distribution of the two genetic haplotype 
lineages (Clade I and Clade II) is very similar to what is seen for the 
nesting sites and indicates a strong regional structuring with little 
overlap (Bolker et al., 2007). However, a recent study showed that a 
large proportion of juvenile green turtles in the Cape Verde Islands in 
the eastern Atlantic originated from distant nesting sites across the 
Atlantic, namely Suriname (38 percent), Ascension Island (12 percent) 
and Guinea Bissau (19 percent), suggesting that, like loggerheads, 
green turtles in the Atlantic undertake transoceanic developmental 
migrations (Monz[oacute]n-Arg[uuml]ello et al., 2010). The fact that 
long distance dispersal is only seen for juvenile turtles suggests that 
larger adult-sized turtles return to forage within the region of their 
natal nesting sites, thereby limiting the potential for gene-flow 
across larger scales (Monz[oacute]n-Arg[uuml]ello et al., 2010).
    In the South Atlantic, flipper tag recoveries have established 
movement between feeding grounds and nesting sites in the Caribbean and 
Brazil (Lima et al., 2003; Lima et al., 2008; Lima et al., 2012), and 
telemetry data indicate that juvenile green turtles move from Argentina 
to Uruguay and Brazil, from Uruguay to Brazil, and from the Guianas to 
Brazil. Telemetry studies indicate that nesting females from the 
eastern South Atlantic (west coast of Africa) are confined to the 
eastern South Atlantic, and nesting females from the western South 
Atlantic are confined to the western South Atlantic. In the eastern 
South Atlantic, all tracked turtles remained in the general vicinity of 
their release location. Nesting females from Ascension Island were 
tracked to foraging grounds along the coast of Brazil.
    Finally, demographic evidence for discreteness of South Atlantic 
green turtles lies in the fact that the South Atlantic is home to the 
largest green turtles in the world, with a mean nesting size of green 
turtles at Atol das Rocas, Brazil of 118.6 cm CCL (n=738), compared 
with 95 cm to 110 cm CCL size range for most other populations.
    Based on the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we 
concur, that three discrete populations exist in the Atlantic Ocean/
Mediterranean: (1) North Atlantic, (2) Mediterranean, and (3) South 
Atlantic. These three populations are markedly separated from each 
other and from populations within the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean 
basins as a consequence of physical (including both oceanographic 
basins and currents), ecological, and behavioral factors. Information 
supporting this conclusion includes genetic analysis, flipper tag 
recoveries, and satellite telemetry.
2. Indian Ocean
    Green turtles from the Indian Ocean exhibit haplotypes from Clades 
II, III, IV, VI, and VII. In the southwest Indian Ocean, Bourjea et al. 
(2007b) genetically assessed the population structure among 288 nesting 
green turtles from 10 nesting sites. Overall, the southwest Indian 
Ocean appears to have at least two genetic stocks: (1) The South 
Mozambique Channel (Juan de Nova and Europa); and (2) the North 
Mozambique Channel. As stated earlier, the authors recorded a high 
presence of a common and widespread South Atlantic Ocean haplotype (CM-
A8) in the South Mozambique Channel. However, the observation that only 
a single Atlantic haplotype has been observed and that it occurs in 
high frequency among South Mozambique Channel rookeries suggests that 
gene flow is not ongoing (Bourjea et al., 2007b). Nesting sites in the 
North Mozambique Channel share several haplotypes (including CmP47 and 
CmP49) with nesting sites in the eastern Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia 
and the Western Pacific, indicating strong-connectivity with the 
eastern Indian Ocean population. However, tagging and tracking data 
document movements within the Southwest Indian Ocean but not between it 
and the eastern Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Although there is 
some evidence of trans-boundary movement between the southwest Indian 
Ocean and the population in the North Indian Ocean, evidence from tag 
returns indicates that most remain in the southwest Indian Ocean. 
Indeed, some green turtles in Tanzania are probably resident, and 
others are highly migratory, moving to and from nesting and feeding 
grounds within the southwest Indian Ocean in Kenya, Seychelles, 
Comoros, Mayotte, Europa Island and South Africa (Muir, 2005). From 
2009 to 2011, 90 satellite transmitters deployed on nesting green 
turtles at five nesting sites in the southwest Indian Ocean showed that 
nearly 20 percent of the tracked turtles used Madagascar coastal 
foraging grounds while more than 80 percent

[[Page 15281]]

used the east African coasts, including waters off north Mozambique and 
south Tanzania. The SRT determined that spatial separation between the 
southwest Indian Ocean and other Indo-Pacific populations, as well as 
an apparent nesting gap, the lack of trans-boundary recoveries in 
tagging, and localized telemetry, indicate discreteness from other 
populations in the Indo-Pacific.
    In the North Indian Ocean, limited information from only a single 
nesting site (Jana Island, Saudi Arabia, n=27) exists on the genetic 
structure (M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013). Nonetheless, four mtDNA 
haplotypes never reported from any other nesting site were identified 
from Jana Island, and are highly divergent from other haplotypes in the 
Indian Ocean. This population also appears to be isolated from other 
Indian populations by substantial breaks in nesting habitat along the 
Horn of Africa and along the entire eastern side of the Indian 
subcontinent.
    Tagging of turtles on nesting beaches of the North Indian Ocean 
started in the late 1970s and indicates that some turtles in the North 
Indian Ocean migrate long distances from distant feeding grounds to 
nesting beaches while others are quite sedentary, but all stay within 
the North Indian Ocean. Tagging studies have revealed that some turtles 
nesting on Ras Al Hadd and Masirah, Oman can be found as far away as 
Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the upper Gulf, and Pakistan 
(Ross, 1987; Salm, 1991), and a green turtle tagged in Oman was found 
in the Maldives (Al-Saady et al., 2005). No tagging has been carried 
out on feeding grounds (Al-Saady et al., 2005).
    A few green turtles in the North Indian Ocean have been fitted with 
satellite transmitters and reported at www.seaturtle.org, but no data 
have been published. One telemetered female green turtle remained in 
the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf for 49 days (N. Pilcher, Marine 
Research Foundation, pers. comm., 2013), and two nesting turtles were 
telemetered at Masirah Island, Oman, both of which moved southward 
along the Arabian Peninsula and were found in the Red Sea when the 
transmissions ceased (Rees et al. 2012). Telemetry data for captive-
hatched and reared green turtles at Republic of Maldives (Vabbinfaru 
Island, Male Atoll) have indicated wide movement patterns within the 
Indian Ocean (N. Pilcher, Marine Research Foundation, pers. comm., 
2013).
    In the eastern Indian Ocean, turtles mix readily with those in the 
western Pacific. Genetic sampling in the eastern Indian and western 
Pacific Ocean regions has been fairly extensive with more than 22 
nesting sites sampled although, because there are a high number of 
nesting sites in this region and there is complex structure, there 
remain gaps in sampling relative to distribution (e.g., Thailand, 
Vietnam, parts of Indonesia, and the Philippines). Most nesting sites 
are dominated by haplotypes from Clade VII, but with some overlap of 
Clades III and IV throughout the Indian Ocean--evidence of a complex 
colonization history in this region. While one common haplotype is 
shared across the Indian Ocean, substantial gaps in nesting sites along 
the east coast of India and in the southern Indian Ocean serve to 
isolate the eastern Indian-western Pacific population from those in the 
north and southwest Indian Ocean. The Wallace Line (a boundary drawn in 
1859 by the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace that separates the 
highly distinctive faunas of the Asian and Australian biogeographic 
regions) and its northern extension separate this population from 
populations to the east, which carry haplotypes primarily from Clade 
IV. Nesting sites to the northern extreme (Taiwan and Japan) show more 
complex patterns of higher mixing of divergent haplotypes, and the 
placement of individual nesting sites within this area is somewhat 
uncertain and may become better resolved when additional genetic data 
are available.
    Significant population substructuring occurs among nesting sites in 
this area. Mixed-stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that green 
turtles from multiple nesting beaches commonly mix at feeding areas 
across northern Australia (Dethmers et al., 2006) and Malaysia (Jensen, 
2010), with higher contributions from nearby large nesting sites. 
Satellite tracking also shows green turtle movement throughout the 
eastern Indian and western Pacific (Cheng, 2000; Dermawan, 2002; 
Charuchinda et al., 2003; Wang, 2006).
    Given the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we 
concur, that three discrete populations exist in the Indian Ocean, with 
the third overlapping with the Pacific: (1) Southwest Indian, (2) North 
Indian, and (3) East Indian-West Pacific. These three populations are 
markedly separated from each other and from populations within the 
Atlantic Ocean as a consequence of physical, ecological, and behavioral 
factors. Information supporting this conclusion includes genetic 
analysis, flipper tag recoveries, and satellite telemetry.
3. Pacific Ocean
    The central west Pacific encompasses most of the area commonly 
referred to as Micronesia as well as parts of Melanesia. Genetic 
sampling in the central west Pacific has recently improved, but remains 
challenging, given the large number of small island and atoll nesting 
sites. At least five management units have been identified in the 
region (Palau, Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Yap, CNMI/
Guam, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marshall Islands); 
Dethmers et al., 2006; M. Jensen, NRC, pers. comm., 2013; Dutton et 
al., 2014). The central west Pacific carries haplotypes from Clade IV, 
while the populations to the west carry haplotypes predominantly from 
Clade VII, so any mixing presumably reflects foraging migrations rather 
than interbreeding. The boundary between the central west Pacific and 
the East Indian-West Pacific populations is congruent with the northern 
portion of the Wallace Line. Wide expanses of open ocean separate the 
central west Pacific from the central north Pacific, and genetic data 
provide no evidence of gene flow between the central west Pacific and 
the central north Pacific over evolutionary time scales. Tagging 
studies also have not found evidence for migration of breeding adults 
to or from adjacent populations.
    In the southwest Pacific, genetic sampling has been extensive for 
larger nesting sites along the GBR, the Coral Sea and New Caledonia 
(Dethmers et al., 2006; Jensen, 2010; Dutton et al., 2014). However, 
several smaller nesting sites in this region have not been sampled 
(e.g., Solomon Islands, Republic of Vanuatu (Vanuatu), Tuvalu, PNG, 
etc.). The southwest Pacific population is characterized by haplotypes 
from Clade V, which have been found only at nesting sites in this 
population. It also has a high frequency of haplotypes from Clades III 
and IV, as well as low frequency of haplotypes from Clades VI and VII, 
making this area highly diverse (haplotypes from the widespread Clade 
IV differ from those found in the central west and central south 
Pacific).
    Traditional capture-mark-recapture studies (Limpus, 2009) and 
genetic mixed-stock analysis (Jensen, 2010) show that turtles from 
several different southwest Pacific nesting sites overlap on feeding 
grounds along the east coast of Australia. This mixing in foraging 
areas might provide mating opportunities between turtles from different 
stocks as evidenced by the lack of differentiation found between the 
northern and southern GBR nesting sites

[[Page 15282]]

for nuclear DNA (FitzSimmons et al., 1997). However, tagging, 
telemetry, and genetic studies show movement of breeding adults occurs 
mainly within the southwest Pacific.
    In the central South Pacific, genetic sampling has been limited to 
two nesting sites (American Samoa and French Polynesia) among the many 
small isolated nesting sites that characterize this region, but they 
both contain relatively high frequencies of Clade III haplotypes, which 
are not found in the central west and southwest Pacific populations. 
Nesting sites from this area share some haplotypes with surrounding 
nesting sites, but at low frequency. There are also limited data on 
mixed-stock foraging areas from this region. Flipper tag returns and 
satellite tracking studies demonstrate that post-nesting females travel 
the complete geographic breadth of this population, from French 
Polynesia in the east to Fiji in the west, and sometimes even slightly 
beyond (Tuato'o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et al., 2004; Maison et 
al., 2010; White, 2012), as far as the Philippines (Trevor, 2009). The 
complete extent of migratory movements is unknown. The central South 
Pacific is isolated by vast expanses of open ocean from turtle 
populations to the north (Hawai`i) and east (Galapagos), and in both of 
these areas all turtle haplotypes are from an entirely different clade 
(Clade VIII), indicating lack of genetic exchange across these 
barriers.
    The central North Pacific, which includes the Hawaiian Archipelago 
and Johnston Atoll, is inhabited by green turtles that are 
geographically discrete in their genetic characteristics, range, and 
movements, as evidenced by genetic studies and mark-recapture studies 
using flipper tags, microchip tags, and satellite telemetry. The key 
nesting aggregations within the Hawaiian Archipelago have all been 
genetically sampled. Mitochondrial DNA studies show no significant 
differentiation (based on haplotype frequency) between FFS and Laysan 
Island (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). While the Hawaiian Islands 
do share haplotypes with Revillagigedos Islands (CmP1.1 and CmP3.1) at 
low frequency, the populations remain highly differentiated, and there 
is little evidence of significant ongoing gene flow. The Frey et al. 
(2013) analysis of mtDNA and nDNA in scattered nesting sites on the 
main Hawaiian Islands (MHI; Molokai, Maui, Oahu, Lanai, and Kauai) 
showed that nesting in the MHI might be attributed to a relatively 
small number of females that appear to be related to each other and 
demographically isolated from FFS.
    Turtles foraging in the MHI originate from Hawaiian nesting sites, 
with very rare records of turtles from outside the central North 
Pacific (Dutton et al., 2008), and there is a general absence of 
turtles from the Hawaiian breeding population at foraging areas outside 
the central North Pacific. From 1965-2013, 17,536 green turtles 
(juvenile through adult stages) were tagged. With only three 
exceptions, the 7,360 recaptures of these tagged turtles have been 
within the Hawaiian Archipelago. The three outliers involved recoveries 
in Japan, the Marshall Islands, and the Philippines (G. Balazs, NMFS, 
pers. comm., 2013).
    Information from tagging at FFS, areas in the MHI, the Northwest 
Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) to the northwest of FFS, and at Johnston Atoll 
shows that reproductive females and males periodically migrate to FFS 
for seasonal breeding from the other locations. At the end of the 
season they return to their respective foraging areas. The reproductive 
migrations of 19 satellite tracked green turtles (16 females and 3 
males) all involved movements between FFS and the MHI. Conventional 
tagging using microchips and metal flipper tags has resulted in the 
documentation of 164 turtles making reproductive movements from or to 
FFS and foraging pastures in the MHI, and 58 turtles from or to FFS and 
the foraging pastures in the NWHI (G. Balazs, NMFS, unpubl. data).
    Hawaiian green turtles also exhibit morphological features that may 
make them discrete from other populations, possibly reflecting genetic 
as well as ecological adaptations. In the Hawai`i population, and in 
Australian populations, green turtles have a well-developed crop, which 
has not been found in Caribbean or eastern Pacific populations of green 
turtles (Balazs et al., 1998; J. Seminoff, NMFS, unpubl. data). In 
addition, juvenile green turtles in Hawai`i have proportionally larger 
rear flippers than those in the western Caribbean (Wyneken and Balazs, 
1996; Balazs et al., 1998). These anatomical differences may reflect 
adaptive variation to different environmental conditions. A crop that 
holds food material in the esophagus would permit more food to be 
ingested during each foraging event in a more dynamic feeding 
environment, which is helpful along wind-swept rugged coastlines where 
large waves crash ashore. Larger flippers would also aid in making them 
stronger swimmers in this feeding environment, and during reproductive 
migrations across rough pelagic waters, as opposed to calmer coastal 
waters (Balazs et al., 1998).
    The central North Pacific population and those in the central South 
Pacific and central west Pacific appear to be separated by large 
oceanic areas, and the central North Pacific and the eastern Pacific 
populations are separated by the East Pacific Barrier, an oceanographic 
barrier that greatly restricts or eliminates gene flow for most marine 
species from a wide range of taxa (Briggs, 1974).
    In the eastern Pacific, genetic sampling has been extensive and the 
coverage in this region is substantial, considering the relatively 
small population sizes of most eastern Pacific nesting sites, which 
include both mainland and insular nesting. This sampling indicates 
complete isolation of nesting females between the eastern and western 
Pacific nesting sites. Recent efforts to determine the nesting stock 
origins of green turtles assembled in foraging areas have found that 
green turtles from several eastern Pacific nesting stocks commonly mix 
at feeding areas in the Gulf of California and along the Pacific coast 
in San Diego Bay, U.S. (Nichols, 2003; P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data). 
In addition, green turtles of eastern Pacific origin have been found, 
albeit very rarely, in waters off Hawai`i (LeRoux et al., 2003; Dutton 
et al., 2008), Japan (Kuroyanagi et al., 1999; Hamabata et al., 2009), 
and New Zealand (Godoy et al., 2012). A recent study of juvenile green 
turtles foraging at Gorgona Island in the Republic of Colombia 
indicated a small number (5 percent) of turtles with the haplotype 
CmP22, which was recently discovered to be common in nesting green 
turtles from the Marshall Islands and American Samoa (Dutton et al., 
2014). This shows that, despite the isolation of nesting females 
between the eastern and western Pacific, a small number of immature 
turtles successfully cross the Pacific during developmental migrations 
in both directions. However, it is important to point out that there is 
no evidence of mature turtles inhabiting foraging or nesting habitat 
across the Pacific from their region of origin.
    Recent nDNA studies provide insights that are consistent with 
patterns of differentiation found with mtDNA in the eastern Pacific. 
Roden et al. (2013) found significant differentiation between FFS and 
two eastern Pacific populations (the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands, Ecuador 
and Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico) and greater connectivity between 
Galapagos and Michoac[aacute]n than between FFS and either of the 
eastern Pacific nesting sites.
    Flipper tagging and satellite telemetry data show that dispersal 
and reproductive migratory movements of

[[Page 15283]]

green turtles originating from the eastern Pacific region are generally 
confined to that region. Long-term flipper tagging programs at 
Michoac[aacute]n (Alvarado-D[iacute]az and Figueroa, 1992) and in the 
Gal[aacute]pagos Islands (Green, 1984; P. Zarate, University of 
Florida, pers. comm., 2012) produced 94 tag returns from foraging areas 
throughout the eastern Pacific (e.g., Seminoff et al., 2002b). There 
were two apparent groupings, with tags attached to turtles nesting in 
the Gal[aacute]pagos largely recovered along the shores from Costa Rica 
to Chile in the southeastern Pacific, and long-distance tag returns 
from the Michoac[aacute]n nesting site primarily from foraging areas in 
Mexico to Nicaragua. However, there was a small degree of overlap 
between these two regions, as at least one Michoac[aacute]n tag was 
recovered as far south as Colombia (Alvarado-D[iacute]az and Figueroa, 
1992).
    Satellite telemetry efforts with green turtles in the region have 
shown similar results to those for flipper tag recoveries. A total of 
23 long-distance satellite tracks were considered for the Status Review 
(Seminoff, 2000; Nichols, 2003; Seminoff et al., 2008). Satellite data 
show that turtles tracked in northeastern Mexico (Nichols, 2003; J. 
Nichols, California Academy of Sciences, unpubl. data) and California 
(P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2010) all stayed within the region, 
whereas turtles tracked from nesting beaches in the Gal[aacute]pagos 
Islands all remained in waters off Central America and the broader 
southeastern Pacific Ocean (Seminoff et al., 2008).
    Demographic evidence of discreteness is also found in morphological 
differences between green turtles in the eastern Pacific and those 
found elsewhere. The smallest green turtles worldwide are found in the 
eastern Pacific, where mean nesting size is 82.0 cm CCL in 
Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico (n=718, (Alvarado-D[iacute]az and Figueroa, 
1992) and 86.7 cm CCL in the Gal[aacute]pagos (n=2708; (Z[aacute]rate 
et al., 2003), compared to the 95 cm to 110 cm CCL size range for most 
green turtles. In addition, Kamezaki and Matsui (1995) found 
differences in skull morphology among green turtle populations on a 
broad global scale when analyzing specimens representing west and east 
Pacific (Japan and Gal[aacute]pagos), Indian Ocean (Comoros and 
Seychelles), and Caribbean (Costa Rica and Guyana) populations. The 
eastern Pacific was different from others based on discriminant 
function analysis (used to discriminate between two or more naturally 
occurring groups).
    Given the information presented above, the SRT concluded, and we 
concur, that there are five discrete populations entirely within the 
Pacific Ocean: (1) Central West Pacific, (2) Southwest Pacific, (3) 
Central South Pacific, (4) Central North Pacific, and (5) East Pacific. 
These five populations are markedly separated from each other and from 
populations within the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Oceans as a 
consequence of physical, ecological, behavioral, and oceanographic 
factors. Information supporting this conclusion includes genetic 
analysis, flipper tag recoveries, and satellite telemetry.
    Collectively, all observations above led the SRT to propose that 
green turtles from the following geographic areas might be considered 
``discrete'' according to criteria in the joint DPS policy:

(1) North Atlantic Ocean
(2) Mediterranean Sea
(3) South Atlantic Ocean
(4) Southwest Indian Ocean
(5) North Indian Ocean
(6) East Indian Ocean-West Pacific Ocean
(7) Central West Pacific Ocean
(8) Southwest Pacific Ocean
(9) Central South Pacific Ocean
(10) Central North Pacific Ocean
(11) East Pacific Ocean

B. Significance Determination

    In accordance with the DPS Policy, the SRT next reviewed whether 
the population segments identified in the discreteness analysis were 
biologically and ecologically significant to the taxon to which they 
belong, which is the taxonomic species C. mydas. Data relevant to the 
significance question include ecological, behavioral, genetic and 
morphological data. The SRT considered the following factors, listed in 
the DPS Policy, in determining whether the discrete population segments 
were significant: (1) Evidence that loss of the discrete segment would 
result in a significant gap in the range of the taxon; (2) evidence 
that the discrete segment differs markedly from other populations of 
the species in its genetic characteristics; and (3) persistence of the 
discrete segment in an unusual or unique ecological setting. The DPS 
policy also allows for consideration of other factors if they are 
appropriate to the biology or ecology of the species, such as unique 
morphological or demographic characteristics, and unique movement 
patterns.
1. North Atlantic
    Green turtles in the North Atlantic differ markedly in their 
genetic characteristics from other regional populations. They are 
strongly divergent from the Mediterranean population (the only other 
population within Clade I), and turtles from adjacent populations in 
the eastern Caribbean carry haplotypes from a different clade. The 
North Atlantic population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, 
the loss of the population would result in significant genetic loss to 
the species as a whole.
    The green turtles within the North Atlantic population occupy a 
large portion of one of the major ocean basins in the world; therefore, 
the loss of this segment would represent a significant gap in the 
global range of green turtles. Green turtles take advantage of the warm 
waters of the Gulf Stream to nest in North Carolina at 34[deg] N., 
which is farther from the equator than any other nesting sites outside 
the Mediterranean Sea. Tagging and telemetry studies show that the 
North Atlantic green turtle population has minimal mixing with 
populations in the South Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. The mean 
size of nesting females in the North Atlantic, which could reflect the 
ecological setting and/or be genetically based, is larger (average 
101.7-109.3 cm CCL; (Guzm[aacute]n-Hern[aacute]ndez, 2001, 2006) than 
those in the adjacent Mediterranean Sea (average 88-96 cm CCL), and 
smaller than those at varying locations in the South Atlantic, such as 
those at Isla Trindade, Brazil (average 115.2 cm CCL; Hirth, 1997; 
Almeida et al., 2011), Atol das Rocas, Brazil (112.9-118.6 cm CCL; 
Hirth, 1997; Bellini et al., 2013), and Ascension Island (average 116.8 
cm CCL; Hirth, 1997).
    Another factor indicating uniqueness of the North Atlantic 
population is a typical 2-year remigration interval, as compared to 3-
year or longer intervals that are more common elsewhere (Witherington 
et al., 2006).
2. Mediterranean
    Mediterranean turtles differ markedly in their genetic 
characteristics from other regional populations, with globally unique 
haplotypes and strong divergence from the other population within Clade 
I (the North Atlantic population). Therefore, the loss of the 
population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a 
whole. Given this genetic distinctiveness and the distinctive 
environmental conditions, it is likely that turtles from the eastern 
Mediterranean have developed local adaptations that help them persist 
in this area. Mediterranean females are smaller than those in any other 
regional population except the Eastern Pacific, averaging 92.0 cm CCL 
(Broderick et al., 2003) compared to the global average of 95 cm-110 cm 
CCL.
    The loss of the population would result in a significant gap in the 
range

[[Page 15284]]

of the taxon. The population encompasses a large region, separated from 
other regional populations by large expanses of ocean, and with an 
apparent biogeographic boundary formed by the western Mediterranean.
    Finally, the Mediterranean Sea appears to be a unique ecological 
setting for the species. It is the most saline marine water basin in 
the world (38 parts per thousand (ppt) or higher), is nearly enclosed, 
and is outside the normal latitudinal range for the species, being the 
farthest from the equator of any green turtle population. Although 
similar information is not available for green turtles, it has been 
postulated that the high salinity of sea water in the Mediterranean 
acts as a ``barrier'' preventing loggerhead sea turtles from moving 
among the areas of the Western Mediterranean, explaining why they do 
not mix between the north and south Mediterranean as juveniles 
(Revelles et al., 2008). All nesting sites within the Mediterranean are 
between latitudes 31-40[deg] N., which not only affects temperature but 
results in more seasonal variation in day length and environmental 
conditions, which may have fostered local adaptations in green turtles 
living there.
3. South Atlantic
    The South Atlantic population has globally unique haplotypes. 
Therefore, the loss of the population would result in significant 
genetic loss to the species as a whole. The South Atlantic population 
contains the only nesting site in the world associated with a mid-ocean 
ridge. This unique ecological setting at Ascension Island, one of the 
largest nesting sites within this population, ensures diverse nesting 
habitats and promotes resilience for the species. This population spans 
an entire hemispheric ocean basin, and its loss would result in a gap 
of at least 12,000 km between populations off southeast Africa and 
those in Florida, clearly a significant gap in the range of the taxon. 
Brazil and Guinea Bissau may have acted as a refuge for Atlantic green 
turtles during the Pleistocene period (Reece et al., 2005). The average 
size of nesting females is larger here than in any other populations, 
ranging from 112.9-118.6 cm CCL (Hirth, 1997; Almeida et al., 2011) 
compared to 95-110 cm CCL worldwide, which could reflect an adaptation 
to local environmental conditions such as habitat, availability of 
food, water temperature, and population dynamics.
4. Southwest Indian
    Within the Southwest Indian Ocean, strong upwelling in the 
Mozambique Channel produces distinctive areas of high productivity that 
support a robust turtle population, and complex current patterns in the 
area create a distinctive ecological setting for green turtles. 
Madagascar is one of the largest islands in the world and its proximity 
to the African coast, along with a proliferation of nearby islands, 
creates a complex series of habitats suitable for green turtles. Loss 
of this population would leave a gap of over 10,000 km between 
populations in southern India and those in west-central Africa. Nesting 
turtles from this population are the largest within the Indian Ocean, 
ranging from 103 cm (SCL)-112.3 cm (CCL) (Frazier, 1971; 1985) which 
could reflect growth due to presence of a network of foraging areas and 
localize migratory movements.
5. North Indian
    The ecological setting for this region is unique for green turtles 
in that it contains some of the warmest and highly saline waters in the 
world, indicative of the partially enclosed marine habitats within this 
system. The salinity in the North Indian Ocean varies from 32 to 37 ppt 
comparable only to the Mediterranean Sea. Salinity in this region 
varies with local and seasonal differences particularly in the Arabian 
Sea (dense, high-salinity) and the Bay of Bengal (low-salinity). 
Although genetic data are very limited for this population, with the 
only sample being from the Persian Gulf, it has two groups of highly 
divergent haplotypes that are not found anywhere else in the world 
(i.e., markedly different genetic characteristics). The loss of this 
population, and its globally unique haplotypes, which are not found in 
any other population, would result in significant genetic loss to the 
species as a whole. This population is isolated from other Indian Ocean 
populations which would render its loss a significant gap in the range 
of the species. Nesting turtles are smaller here than in other Indian 
Ocean regions, possibly reflecting genetic adaptations to local 
environmental conditions.
6. East Indian-West Pacific
    This area of complex habitats at the confluence of the tropical 
Indian and Pacific Oceans is a well-known hotspot for speciation and 
diversification of both terrestrial and marine taxa. It is unique in 
that it contains the most extensive continental shelf globally, and 
particularly low salinity waters in the northeastern Indian Ocean. Loss 
of green turtles from this vast area would create a substantial gap in 
the global distribution and, because this population is located at the 
center of the species' range, would strongly affect connectivity within 
the species as a whole. Connectivity is important for the maintenance 
of genetic diversity and resilience of the species. Genetic data 
indicate the presence of ancestral haplotypes with significant mtDNA 
diversity. The loss of this population, and its ancestral haplotypes, 
would represent a significant genetic loss to the species. The wide 
size range of nesting females within this population (82.1 cm-105.6 cm; 
Charuchinda and Monanunsap, 1998; Cheng, 2000) is also an indication of 
the high level of diversity within this population.
7. Central West Pacific
    The Central West Pacific population is genetically significant in 
that it has both globally unique haplotypes and ancestral haplotypes. 
The Central West Pacific has no continental shelf habitats, with all 
nesting occurring on small islands or atolls that are volcanic or 
coralline limestone. There is an apparent oceanic boundary between the 
Central West Pacific and the Central North Pacific population and an 
apparent biogeographic boundary between the Central West Pacific and 
the East Indian-West Pacific population. Loss of turtles from this 
population would create a large gap near the center of the geographic 
range of the species.
8. Southwest Pacific
    Clade V haplotypes have only been found at nesting sites in the 
Southwest Pacific population. In addition to these globally unique 
haplotypes, the presence of the ancestral haplotypes and significant 
mtDNA diversity make this population genetically significant.
    Unlike most other populations in the Pacific Ocean, this population 
includes island nesting sites in close proximity to coastal foraging 
areas. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest coral reef system in 
the world and was periodically isolated over geological time. It 
provides expansive, year-round foraging habitat for green turtles and 
supports one of the largest nesting sites in the world.
9. Central South Pacific
    This population has globally unique haplotypes. Therefore, the loss 
of the population would result in significant genetic loss to the 
species as a whole. To a greater extent than in any other regional 
population, nesting sites are widely dispersed among a large number of 
small habitats on islands and atolls. Foraging areas are mostly coral 
reef ecosystems, with seagrass beds in Tonga and Fiji being a notable 
exception.

[[Page 15285]]

There is an apparent oceanic boundary with the Central North Pacific 
population. Although turtles in this area are poorly studied, they may 
have evolved adaptations to persist with this very diffuse 
metapopulation structure. If green turtles were lost from this entire 
area, it would create a significant gap in the range across the 
southern Pacific Ocean.
10. Central North Pacific
    Mitochondrial DNA in this extensively sampled region includes 
globally unique haplotypes. Although two haplotypes are shared with 
individuals in the Revillagigedos Islands in the East Pacific, there is 
little evidence of significant ongoing gene flow. The loss of this 
population would result in significant genetic loss to the species as a 
whole.
    This population has no continental-shelf habitat and all nesting 
occurs on mid-basin pinnacles. Turtles in this population are known to 
bask, a rare behavior for modern-day sea turtles, and have unique 
morphological traits such as unusually large flippers, possibly 
reflecting adaptations to their ecological setting. This is the most 
isolated of all populations, with an apparent biogeographic boundary 
with the Eastern Pacific population and oceanic boundaries with the 
Central West and Central South Pacific populations. If all turtles were 
lost from this vast geographic area, it would create a significant gap 
in the global range of the species.
11. East Pacific
    The two cold-water currents on the east side of the Pacific Ocean 
(the Humboldt Current in the south and the California Current in the 
north) leave a distinctive region of tropical ocean along the west 
coasts of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America that is 
known as the Eastern Pacific Zoogeographic Region (Briggs, 1974). 
Perhaps as a result, some turtles in this area exhibit a unique 
overwintering behavior similar to hibernation. This area also has a 
very narrow continental shelf and low levels of seagrass, resulting in 
a unique diet for green turtles (e.g., tunicates and red mangrove 
fruits; Amorocho and Reina, 2007). This population has globally unique 
haplotypes. Therefore, the loss of the population would result in 
significant genetic loss to the species as a whole. Mean size of 
nesting turtles in the East Pacific is smaller, at approximately 82 cm 
CCL (Pritchard, 1971) than in any other population, which could reflect 
an adaptation to local ecological conditions, as could the distinctive 
``black'' phenotype. The Galapagos Island chain is one of the few areas 
where green turtles bask (Hawai`i being the other). Loss of all turtles 
from this population would leave a significant gap in the range of the 
species as it occurs along much of the eastern boundary of the world's 
largest ocean.

C. Summary of Discreteness and Significance Determinations

    In summary, the 11 discrete populations identified in the 
Discreteness Determination section were also determined to be 
significant to the species, C. mydas. Each is genetically unique, and 
many are identified by unique mtDNA haplotypes which could represent 
adaptive differences. Some populations exist in unique or unusual 
ecological settings influenced by local ecological and physical factors 
which may also lead to adaptive differences and represent adaptive 
potential. Some also possess unique morphological or other demographic 
characteristics that render them significant. Most populations 
represent a large portion of the species' range, and their loss would 
result in a significant gap in the range of the species.
    Based on the information provided in the Discreteness Determination 
and Significance Determination sections above, the SRT identified the 
following 11 potential green turtle DPSs (Figure 2): (1) North 
Atlantic, (2) Mediterranean, (3) South Atlantic, (4) Southwest Indian, 
(5) North Indian, (6) East Indian-West Pacific, (7) Central West 
Pacific, (8) Southwest Pacific, (9) Central South Pacific, (10) Central 
North Pacific, and (11) East Pacific. We concur with the findings of 
the SRT and conclude that the 11 potential DPSs identified by the SRT 
warrant delineation as DPSs.
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TP23MR15.001


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VI. Listing Evaluation Process

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs

    In these sections, we describe the geographic range of each DPS. We 
discuss its population parameters, which are derived from population 
data and influence the persistence of the DPS. These population 
parameters include: Abundance, growth rates or trends, spatial 
structure, and diversity or resilience (McElhany et al., 2000). NMFS 
has used this approach in numerous status reviews. USFWS uses a similar 
approach, based on Shaffer and Stein (2000), to evaluate a species' 
status in terms of its representation, resiliency, and redundancy; this 
methodology has also been a widely accepted approach (Tear et al., 
2005). Though expressed differently, these two approaches rely on the 
same conservation biology principles. Though this information is 
presented separately from the assessment of threats under section 
4(a)(1) of the ESA, population dynamics represent one aspect of the 
other natural or manmade factors affecting the continued existence of 
the species that we consider under Factor E.
    Complete population abundance and trend estimates do not exist for 
any of the 11 DPSs. The data used in the Status Review and summarized 
here represent the best scientific information available. The data are 
more robust for some areas than for others. For each DPS, the primary 
data available are collected on nesting beaches, either as counts of 
nests or counts of nesting females, or a combination of both (either 
direct or extrapolated). Information on abundance and trends away from 
the nesting beaches is limited and often non-existent, primarily 
because these data are, relative to nesting beach studies, logistically 
difficult and expensive to obtain. Therefore, the primary and best 
available information source for directly evaluating status and trends 
of the DPSs is nesting data.
    Nesting female abundance estimates for each nesting site or nesting 
beach are presented in the Status Review for each potential DPS. 
Accompanying this information is trend information in the form of bar 
plots and Population Viability Analysis (PVA) models extending 100 
years into the future for the 33 sites that met the criteria for 
depicting the data this way, i.e., recent (<10 year old) data over a 
given period of time (10 years for bar plots, 15 years for PVA) with 
consistent protocols and effort during that time.
    With regard to spatial structure, the SRT used information from 
genetic, tagging, telemetry, and demographic data to identify 
structuring and substructuring within each DPS. This informed the SRT 
of metapopulation dynamics in order that it might consider these 
dynamics in considerations about the future of the species, including 
whether source populations and genetic diversity are being maintained.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the SRT considered the 
extent of ecological variation, including the overall nesting spatial 
range, diversity in nesting season, and diversity of nesting site 
structure and orientation, e.g., whether nesting sites are insular or 
continental, have a high or low beach face, and whether there are a 
variety of types of sites. The SRT also considered demographic and 
genetic diversity of the DPS which may indicate its ability to adapt 
and thus its resilience. One of the considerations when looking at 
diversity was the DPS's ability to adapt to climate change including, 
but not limited to, sea level rise and warming of nesting beaches.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Eleven Green Turtle DPSs

    Section 4 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1533) and implementing regulations 
at 50 CFR part 424 set forth procedures for adding species to the 
Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife Species. Under 
section 4(a) of the ESA, the Services must determine whether a species 
is threatened or endangered because of any of the following 5 factors: 
(A) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment 
of its habitat or range; (B) overutilization for commercial, 
recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (C) disease or 
predation; (D) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) 
other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.
    In this rulemaking, information regarding the status of each of the 
11 green turtle DPSs is considered in relation to the five factors 
provided in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA. That information presented here 
is a summary of the information in the Status Review. The reader is 
directed to the subsection within each DPS section of the Status Review 
titled ``Analysis of Factors Listed Under ESA Section 4(a)(1)'' for a 
more detailed discussion of the factors.

C. Conservation Efforts

    In evaluating the efficacy of protective efforts not yet 
implemented or not yet proven to be effective, we rely on the Policy on 
Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions 
(``PECE''; 68 FR 15100, March 28, 2003), issued jointly by the 
Services. Information on conservation efforts for each DPS is 
summarized from the Status Review. For a more detailed description of 
conservation efforts, please see that document. When assessing 
conservation efforts, the SRT assumed that all conservation efforts 
would remain in place at their current levels. In our final 
determinations, we considered the conservation benefits of continued 
protections under the ESA.

D. Extinction Risk Assessments and Findings

    To analyze the extinction risk of each DPS, the SRT collected and 
presented information on the six critical assessment elements: (1) 
Abundance, (2) growth rates/trends, (3) spatial structure, (4) 
diversity/resilience, (5) five factor analysis/threats, and (6) 
conservation efforts. Shortly after each presentation, the SRT voted 
twice: A vote on the contribution of each critical assessment element 
to extinction risk, and a vote on the overall risk of extinction to the 
DPS (see section 3.3.4 of the Status Review for a more detailed 
discussion of this process).
    In the first vote, SRT members ranked the importance of each of the 
four population parameters (Abundance, Trends, Spatial Structure, 
Diversity/Resilience) by assigning them a value from 1 to 5 for each 
DPS, with 1 indicating a very low risk and 5 indicating a very high 
risk. SRT members then ranked the influence of the section 4(a)(1) 
factors (threats) on the status of each DPS by assigning a value of 0 
(neutral effect on status--this could mean that threats are not 
sufficient to appreciably affect the status of the DPS, or that threats 
are already reflected in the population parameters), -1 (threats 
described in the 5-factor analysis suggest that the DPS will experience 
some decline (<5 percent decline) in abundance within 100 years), or -2 
(threats described in the 5-factor analysis suggest that the DPS will 
experience significant decline (>=5 percent decline) in abundance 
within 100 years). They then ranked the influence of conservation 
efforts on the status of each DPS by assigning a value of 0 (neutral 
effect on status--this could mean that conservation efforts are not 
sufficient to appreciably affect the status of the DPS, or that 
conservation efforts are already reflected in the population 
parameters), +1 (activities described in Conservation Efforts suggest 
that the DPS will experience <5 percent increase in abundance within 
100 years), or +2 (activities described in Conservation Efforts suggest 
that the DPS will experience >=5 percent increase in

[[Page 15287]]

abundance within 100 years). The SRT did note in discussions that none 
of these elements is entirely independent. Abundance, growth rates, 
spatial structure, and diversity/resilience are linked and often 
dependent on each other. Past threats and conservation efforts affect 
these four population parameters. To minimize ``double counting,'' the 
SRT considered only those threats and conservation measures that are 
unlikely to be reflected in the population parameters.
    In the second vote, SRT members provided their expert opinion (via 
vote) on the likelihood that each DPS would reach a critical risk 
threshold (quasi-extinction) within 100 years. In the Status Review, 
the SRT defined the critical risk threshold (quasi-extinction) as 
follows: ``A DPS that has reached a critical risk threshold has such 
low abundance, declining trends, limited distribution or diversity, 
and/or significant threats (untempered by significant conservation 
efforts) that the DPS would be at very high risk of extinction with 
little chance for recovery.'' Generally, DPSs were considered to have 
higher viability if they were composed of a number of relatively large 
populations, distributed throughout the geographic range of the DPS, 
and exhibited stable or increasing growth rates. DPSs were considered 
to be at higher risk if they were composed of fewer robust populations 
or with robust populations all concentrated in a small geographic area, 
where they might be susceptible to correlated catastrophes. Any DPS 
with low phenotypic and/or habitat diversity were also considered to be 
at higher risk because the entire DPS could be vulnerable to persistent 
environmental conditions (Limpus and Nicholls, 2000; Saba et al., 2008; 
Van Houtan and Halley, 2011) or stochastic catastrophic events (Hawkes 
et al., 2007; Van Houtan and Bass, 2007; Fuentes et al., 2011).
    Each member was given 100 points to spread across risk categories, 
reflecting their interpretation of the information for that DPS; the 
voting results are available in the Status Review. The spread of points 
is meant to reflect the amount of uncertainty in the risk threshold 
bins. Risk categories were <1 percent, 1-5 percent, 6-10 percent, 11-20 
percent, 21-50 percent, and >50 percent. We note that, presumably 
because this species is such a long-lived species and, as such, it is 
unlikely that it would go extinct within 100 years even if it was lost 
in many places, every DPS received numerous points in the <1 percent 
category, including those with the most depressed numbers and that face 
the highest threats.
    As noted above, the SRT estimated the likelihood that a population 
would fall below a critical risk threshold within 100 years. The SRT 
did not define the critical risk threshold quantitatively but instead 
provided the following definition: ``A DPS that has reached a critical 
risk threshold has such low abundance, declining trends, limited 
distribution or diversity, and/or significant threats (untempered by 
significant conservation efforts) that the DPS would be at very high 
risk of extinction with little chance for recovery.''
    While the SRT's review of the DPSs' statuses was rigorous and 
extensive, the framework used does not allow us to easily or clearly 
translate a particular critical risk category to an ESA listing status. 
Structured expert opinion is a valid and commonly used method of 
evaluating extinction risk and forms a useful starting point for our 
analysis. However, in our judgment, the critical risk threshold 
approach used for this status review does not directly correlate with 
the ESA's definitions of endangered and threatened. The ESA defines an 
``endangered species'' as ``any species which is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.'' The 
critical risk threshold, as defined by the SRT, is a condition worse 
than endangered, because it essentially precludes recovery. Thus, while 
the SRT votes informed our listing determinations, we did not equate a 
particular critical risk category with an ESA listing status, and 
therefore the votes were not the basis for those determinations. 
However, to make our proposed listing determinations, we applied the 
best available science that was compiled by the SRT in examining the 
definitions of endangered and threatened species under section 3 of the 
ESA.
    After considering the extinction risk, the Services then reviewed 
the present threats and threats anticipated in the foreseeable future 
for each DPS. We examined the significant threats to each DPS, how 
these threats affected that DPS, and how they were predicted to affect 
the DPS in the foreseeable future. Our analysis weighed each factor 
within the scope of the ESA's definitions of threatened and endangered 
for each DPS.
    Among other things, the Services also carefully considered where 
current conditions or protections are present specifically because 
green turtles are listed under the ESA, and whether those conditions 
would likely exist absent such a listing. We note that the latter was 
not considered by the SRT, meaning the SRT conducted all risk analyses 
assuming all protections would remain in place.

VII. North Atlantic DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Atlantic DPS

    The range of the North Atlantic DPS extends from the boundary of 
South and Central America north along the coast to the northern extent 
of the green turtle's range to include Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, 
Honduras, Belize, Mexico, and the United States. It then extends due 
east across the Atlantic Ocean at 48[deg] N.; follows the coast south 
to include the northern portion of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania 
(Mauritania; to 19[deg] N.) on the African continent; and west along 
the 19[deg] N. latitude to the Caribbean basin, turning south and west 
at 63.5[deg] W., 19[deg] N., and due south at 7.5[deg] N., 77[deg] W. 
to the boundary of South and Central to include Puerto Rico, the 
Bahamas, Cuba, Turks and Caicos Islands, Republic of Haiti (Haiti), 
Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. The North Atlantic DPS 
includes the Florida breeding population, which was originally listed 
as endangered (43 FR 32800, July 28, 1978). Critical habitat was 
previously designated for areas within the range of this DPS (i.e., 
coastal waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico; 63 FR 46693, 
September 2, 1998).
    Green turtle nesting sites in the North Atlantic are some of the 
most studied in the world, with time series exceeding 40 years in Costa 
Rica and 35 years in Florida. Seventy-three nesting sites were 
identified within the North Atlantic DPS, although some represent 
numerous individual beaches. For instance, Florida nesting beaches were 
listed by county with the numerous beaches in each county representing 
one site and, for other U.S. beaches (from Texas to North Carolina), 
each state's nesting beaches were represented as one site. There are 
four regions that support high density nesting concentrations for which 
data were available: Tortuguero, Costa Rica; Mexico (Campeche, Yucatan, 
and Quintana Roo); Florida, United States; and Cuba. There is one 
nesting site with >100,000 nesting females (Tortuguero at 131,751; 
Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Sea Turtle Conservancy, 2013), one with 
10,001-100,000 (Quintana Roo, Mexico at 18,257; Julio Zurita, pers. 
comm. 2012) and six with 1,001-5,000: Cayo Largo, Cuba; Campeche, 
Yucatan, and Veracruz, Mexico; and Brevard and Palm Beach Counties, FL, 
United States. There are four with 501-1,000; Tamaulipas, Mexico; 
Vieques, Puerto Rico; Martin and Indian River Counties,

[[Page 15288]]

FL, United States; nine with 101-500; 26 with <50; and 26 with numbers 
unquantified. Seventy-nine percent of the nesting turtles in this DPS 
nest at Tortuguero.
    Of the nesting sites with long-term data sets, both Tortuguero and 
the index beaches in Florida exhibit a strong positive trend in the 
PVAs that were conducted on them, as does Isla Aguada, Mexico (one 
beach in the Campeche group). Three beaches in Cuba (total of 489 
nesting females) either showed no trend or a modest positive trend. One 
beach in Mexico (El Cuyo, Yucatan) exhibited no trend.
    Genetic sampling in the North Atlantic DPS has been generally 
extensive with good coverage of large populations in this region; 
however, some smaller Caribbean nesting sites are absent and coastal 
nesting sites in the Gulf of Mexico are under-represented. Genetic 
differentiation based on mtDNA indicated that there are at least four 
independent nesting subpopulations in the North Atlantic DPS 
characterized by shallow regional substructuring: (1) Florida 
(Hutchinson Island; Lahanas et al., 1994), (2) Cuba (Guanahacabibes 
Pen[iacute]nsula and Cayer[iacute]a San Felipe; Ruiz-Urquiola et al., 
2010), (3) Mexico (Quintana Roo; Encalada et al., 1996), and (4) Costa 
Rica (Tortuguero; Lahanas et al., 1994). These nesting sites are 
characterized by common and widespread haplotypes dominated by CM-A1 
and/or CM-A3. A relatively low level of spatial structure is detected 
due to shared common haplotypes, although there are some rare/unique 
haplotypes at some nesting sites. Connectivity may indicate recent 
shared common ancestry.
    Green turtles nest on both continental and island beaches 
throughout the range of the DPS (Witherington et al., 2006). Major 
nesting sites are primarily continental with hundreds of lower density 
sites scattered throughout the Caribbean. Green turtles nesting in 
Florida seem to prefer barrier island beaches that receive high wave 
energy and that have coarse sands, steep slopes, and prominent 
foredunes. The greatest nesting is on sparsely developed beaches that 
have minimal levels of artificial lighting. A high-low nesting pattern 
for Florida and Mexico occurs during the same years; however, nesting 
in Tortuguero, Costa Rica is not always in sync with Florida and Mexico 
(e.g., 2011 was a high nesting year in Florida, but for Tortuguero the 
high nesting year was 2010). The nesting season is similar throughout 
the range of the DPS, with green turtles nesting from June to November 
in Costa Rica (Bjorndal et al., 1999), and May through September in the 
United States, Mexico, and Cuba (Witherington et al., 2006).

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Atlantic DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    Within the range of the North Atlantic DPS, nesting beaches 
continue to be degraded from a variety of activities. Destruction and 
modification of green turtle nesting habitat results from coastal 
development, coastal armoring, beachfront lighting, erosion, sand 
extraction, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic on nesting beaches 
(Witherington and Bjorndal, 1991; Witherington, 1992; Witherington et 
al., 1996; Lutcavage et al., 1997; Bouchard et al., 1998; Mosier, 1998; 
Witherington and Koeppel, 2000; Mosier and Witherington, 2002; Leong et 
al., 2003; Roberts and Ehrhart, 2007). In addition, sea level rise 
resulting from climate change poses a threat to all nesting beaches. 
Portions of the Southern United States and Caribbean are found be to 
highly vulnerable to sea level rise (Melillo et al., 2014). For 
instance, along the southern portion of the Florida coastline, one 
climate change model predicted one meter of sea level rise by 2060, 
resulting in the inundation of more than 50 percent of coastal wildlife 
refuges (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 2011). Most green turtle nesting in 
the United States is concentrated along the southeastern coast of 
Florida with more than 90 percent of nesting occurring from Brevard to 
Broward counties (http://ocean.floridamarine.org/SeaTurtle/nesting/FlexViewer/). Loss of nesting habitat as a result of sea level rise 
poses a threat to the population. Sea level rise is exacerbated by 
coastal development and armoring, which prevents the beach from 
migrating and causes nesting green turtles to abandon their nesting 
attempts more frequently as a result of their encounter with such 
structures (Mosier, 1998; Mosier and Witherington, 2000; Rizkalla and 
Savage, 2011). Females might nest in sub-optimal habitats, where nests 
are more vulnerable to erosion or inundation (Rizkalla and Savage 
2011). As a result, nests would be subject to more frequent inundation, 
exacerbated erosion, and increased moisture from tidal overwash, which 
can potentially alter thermal regimes, an important factor in 
determining the sex ratio of hatchlings.
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Green turtles in the post-hatchling and early-juvenile stages are 
closely associated with Sargassum algae in the Atlantic and Gulf of 
Mexico (Witherington et al., 2012), and vulnerable to ingesting 
contaminants such as tar balls and plastics that aggregate in 
convergent zones where Sargassum aggregates (Witherington, 2002). 
Juvenile and adult green turtles and their nearshore foraging habitats 
are also exposed to high levels of pollutants, such as agricultural and 
residential runoff, and sewage which result in degraded foraging 
habitat (Smith et al., 1992). Further, increased nutrient load in these 
coastal waters causes eutrophication. Eutrophication is linked to 
harmful algal blooms that result in the loss and degradation of 
seagrass beds, and possibly fibropapilloma tumors in green turtles 
(Milton and Lutz, 2003).
    In Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Panama, water quality is also 
affected by sewage and industrial and agricultural runoff. Pollution 
remains a major threat in the waters of Jamaica. Major sources of 
pollution are industrial and agricultural effluent, garbage dumps and 
solid waste, and household sewage (Greenway, 1977; Green and Webber, 
2003).
    Nearshore foraging habitats such as seagrass beds are affected by 
propeller scarring, anchor damage, dredging, sand mining, and marina 
construction throughout the range of the DPS (Smith et al., 1992; Dow 
et al., 2007; Patr[iacute]cio et al., 2011). Sand placement projects 
along the Florida coastline affect nearshore reefs as a result of 
direct burial of portions of the reef habitat and loss of food sources 
available to green turtles (Lindeman and Snyder, 1999).
    The SRT found, and we concur, that the North Atlantic DPS of the 
green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its 
terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use 
practices as considered above in Factor A. The increasing threats to 
the terrestrial and marine habitats are not reflected in the current 
trend for the North Atlantic DPS, as it was based on nesting numbers 
and not on all current life stages. These increasing threats to the 
population will become apparent when those life stages affected by the 
threats return to nest, as the trend information is based solely on 
numbers of nests. This lag time was considered in our analysis. For 
example, a threat that affects the oceanic juvenile phase would not be 
detected until those turtles return to nest, approximately 15 to 20 
years later. The SRT also found, and we concur, that coastal 
development, beachfront lighting, erosion, sand extraction, and sea 
level rise increasingly impact nesting beaches of

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this DPS and are increasing threats to the DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    A partial list of the countries within the range of the North 
Atlantic DPS where ongoing intentional capture of green turtles occurs, 
includes Costa Rica (Mangel and Tro[euml]ng, 2001; Gonzalez Prieto and 
Harrison, 2012), Mexico (Seminoff, 2000; Gardner and Nichols, 2001; 
Dirado et al., 2002; Guzm[aacute]n-Hern[aacute]ndez and Garc[iacute]a 
Alvarado, 2011), Cuba (Fleming, 2001; F. Moncado, Ministerio de la 
Industria Pesquera, pers. comm., 2013), Nicaragua (Lagueux, 1998; 
Humber et al., 2014), the Bahamas (Fleming, 2001), Jamaica (Haynes-
Sutton et al., 2011), and the Cayman Islands (Fleming, 2001). Harvest 
remains legal in several of these countries (Humphrey and Salm, 1996; 
Wamukoya et al., 1996; Fleming, 2001; Fretey, 2001; Br[auml]utigam and 
Eckert, 2006).
    The commercial artisanal green turtle fishery in Nicaragua 
continues to be a threat to the Tortuguero nesting population, the 
largest remaining green turtle population in the Atlantic (Campbell and 
Lagueux, 2005). Local demand for turtle meat in coastal communities 
continues (Garland and Carthy, 2010). There is a legal turtle fishery 
on the Caribbean coast that is located in the most important 
developmental and foraging habitat for Caribbean green turtles 
(Fleming, 2001; Campbell and Lagueux, 2005). The hunting of juvenile 
and adult turtles continues both legally and illegally in many foraging 
areas where green turtles originating from Florida nesting beaches are 
known to occur (Chac[oacute]n, 2002; Fleming, 2001).
    Direct take of eggs is also an ongoing threat in Panama (Evans and 
Vargas, 1998). Green turtles nesting on Belize's beaches and foraging 
along its coast are harvested in the Robinson Point area and sold in 
markets and restaurants (Searle, 2003). Large numbers of green turtles 
are captured in the area southeast of Belize, an area which may be an 
important migratory corridor (Searle, 2004). There are important 
feeding grounds in the Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania. While the frequency 
of green turtle nesting in Mauritania is not known, green turtle nests 
are reported as being harvested there (Fretey, 2001; Fretey and Hama, 
2012).
    Commercial harvest of green turtles was a factor that contributed 
to the historic decline of this DPS. Current harvest of green turtles 
and eggs, in a portion of this DPS, continues to be significant threat 
to the persistence of this DPS.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    Fibropapillomatosis (FP) has been found in green turtle populations 
in the United States (Hirama, 2001; Ene et al., 2005; Foley et al., 
2005; Hirama and Ehrhart, 2007), the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, 
Puerto Rico (Dow et al., 2007; Patr[iacute]cio et al., 2011), Cayman 
Islands (Wood and Wood, 1994; Dow et al., 2007), Costa Rica 
(Tortuguero; Mangel and Tro[euml]ng, 2001), Cuba (Moncada and Prieto, 
2000), Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula; K. Lopez, pers. comm., as cited in 
MTSG, 2004), and Nicaragua (Lagueux, 1998).
    FP continues to be a major problem in some lagoon systems and along 
the nearshore reefs of Florida. It is a chronic, often lethal disease 
occurring predominantly in green turtles (Van Houtan et al., 2014). A 
correlation appeared to exist between these degraded habitats and the 
prevalence of FP in the green turtles that forage in these areas but no 
direct link was established (Aguirre and Lutz, 2004; Foley et al., 
2005). Indeed, across green turtle populations, it is widely observed 
that FP occurs most frequently in eutrophied and otherwise impaired 
waterways (Herbst, 1994; Van Houtan et al., 2010). A recent study 
establishes that eutrophication substantially increases the nitrogen 
content of macroalgae, thereby promoting the latent herpes virus which 
causes FP tumors in green turtles (Van Houtan et al., 2014) although it 
is argued that there is no inferential framework to base this 
conclusion (Work et al., 2014). Despite the high incidence of FP among 
foraging populations, there is no conclusive evidence on the effect of 
FP on reproductive success (Chaloupka and Balazs, 2005).
    Harmful algal blooms, such as a red tide, also affect green turtles 
in the North Atlantic DPS. In Florida, the species that causes most red 
tides is Karenia brevis, a dinoflagellate that produces a toxin (Redlow 
et al., 2002). Since 2007, there were two red tide events, one in 2007 
along the east coast of Florida, and one in 2012 along the west coast 
of Florida. Sea turtle stranding trends indicated that these events 
were acting as a mortality factor (A. Foley, Florida Fish and Wildlife 
Conservation Commission, pers. comm., 2013). These events may impact a 
population's present and future reproductive status.
    Predators such as raccoons (Procyon lotor), feral hogs (Sus 
scrofa), foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus and Vulpes vulpes), and 
coyotes (Canis latrans) may take significant numbers of turtle eggs 
(Stancyk, 1982; Allen et al., 2001). Nest protection programs are in 
place at most of the major nesting beaches in the North Atlantic DPS, 
although they are managed at varying levels and degrees of 
effectiveness (Engeman et al., 2005). Predator species that are 
particularly difficult to manage include red fire ants (Solenopsis 
invicta) and jaguars (Panthera onca) (Wetterer, 2006; Prieto and 
Harrison, 2012).
    Although FP disease is of major concern, with increasing levels in 
some green turtle populations in this DPS, it should be noted there is 
uncertainty of the long-term survivability and effect on the 
reproductive effort of the population. Predation is known to occur 
throughout this DPS, and we find it to be a significant threat to this 
DPS in the absence of well managed nest protection programs.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    At least 15 regulatory mechanisms that apply to green turtles 
regionally (e.g., U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and 
Management Act) or globally (e.g., Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) apply to green turtles 
within the North Atlantic Ocean. The analysis of these existing 
regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their 
current levels.
    In the United States, regulatory mechanisms that protect green 
turtles are in place and include State, Federal, and international 
laws. The green turtle was listed under the ESA in 1978, providing 
relatively comprehensive protection and recovery activities to minimize 
the threats to green turtles in the United States. Considering the 
dependence of the species on conservation efforts, significant concerns 
remain regarding the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms. The 
development and implementation of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in the 
shrimp trawl fishery was likely the most significant conservation 
accomplishment for North Atlantic green turtles in the marine 
environment since their 1978 ESA listing. In the southeast United 
States and Gulf of Mexico, TEDs have been mandatory in shrimp and 
flounder trawls for over a decade. These regulations are implemented 
and enforced to varying degrees throughout the Gulf and U.S. Southeast 
Atlantic. For example, the State of Louisiana prohibits enforcement of 
TED regulations and tow time limits. In other States, enforcement of 
TED regulations depends on available

[[Page 15290]]

resources, and illegal or improperly installed TEDs continue to 
contribute to mortality of green turtles. Further, TEDs are not 
required in all trawl fisheries, and green turtle mortality continues 
in the Gulf of Mexico, where shrimp trawling is the highest (Lewison et 
al., 2014). There are also regulatory mechanisms in place that address 
the loss of nesting habitat, such as the Florida Administrative Code 
Rule 62B-33.0155, which addresses threats from armoring structures. 
However, these regulatory mechanisms allow for variances and armoring 
permits continue to be issued along nesting beaches.
    Other threats, such as light pollution on nesting beaches, marine 
debris, vessel strikes, and continued direct harvest of green turtles 
in places like Nicaragua, are being addressed to some extent by 
regulatory mechanisms, although they remain a problem. In addition, 
other regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles 
(often all sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. The 
extent to which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts 
is difficult to ascertain. When the SRT assessed conservation efforts, 
it assumed that all conservation efforts would remain in place at their 
current levels. The following countries have laws to protect green 
turtles: The Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Canary Islands, Cayman Islands, 
Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, 
Jamaica, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and the United States 
(including the commonwealth of Puerto Rico).
    With regard to the United States, the key law currently protecting 
green turtles is the ESA. This law has been instrumental in conserving 
sea turtles, eliminating directed take of turtles in U.S. waters unless 
authorized by permit and reducing indirect take. In addition, the 
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act has been 
effective at mandating responsible fishing practices and bycatch 
mitigation within fleets that sell fisheries products to the United 
States, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act authorizes a dedicated 
fund to support marine turtle conservation projects in foreign 
countries, with emphasis on protecting nesting populations and nesting 
habitat. In addition, at least 12 international treaties and/or 
regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the 
North Atlantic DPS.
    Outside of the United States, there are some national regulations 
that address the harvest of green turtles as well as the import and 
export of turtle parts. These regulations allow for the harvest of 
green turtles of certain sizes, months, or for ``traditional'' use. 
Gear restrictions and TED requirements exist in a few countries, 
although the compliance level is unknown. Our Status Review did not 
reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address marine 
pollution, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change that 
continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Fisheries bycatch in artisanal and industrial fishing gear 
continues to be a major threat to green turtles in the North Atlantic 
DPS. The adverse impacts of bycatch on sea turtles has been documented 
in marine environments throughout the world (National Research Council, 
1990b; Epperly, 2003; Lutcavage et al., 1997). The lack of 
comprehensive and effective monitoring and bycatch reduction efforts in 
many pelagic and near-shore fisheries operations throughout the range 
of the North Atlantic DPS still allows substantial direct and indirect 
mortality (NMFS and USFWS, 2007).
i. Gill Net and Trawl Fisheries
    Gill net fisheries may be the most ubiquitous of fisheries 
operating in the neritic range of the North Atlantic DPS. In the United 
States, some states (e.g., South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, 
and Texas) have prohibited gill nets in their waters, but there remain 
active gill net fisheries in other U.S. states, in U.S. Federal waters, 
Mexican waters, Central and South America, and the Northeast Atlantic. 
Finfish fisheries accounted for the greatest proportion of turtle 
bycatch (53 percent) in Cuba. In Jamaica, fish traps and gill nets are 
the gear primarily identified in sea turtle bycatch. Purse seine and 
gill nets are used commonly in the waters of the Dominican Republic 
(Dow et al., 2007). In Costa Rica, gill nets, hook and line, and trawls 
are the main gear types deployed (Food and Agriculture Organization of 
the United Nations, 2004). Shark-netting operations in Panama are known 
to capture green turtles (Meylan et al., 2013).
    The development and implementation of TEDs in the U.S. shrimp trawl 
fishery was likely the most significant conservation accomplishment for 
North Atlantic green turtles in the marine environment since their 1978 
ESA listing. In the southeast United States and Gulf of Mexico, TEDs 
have been mandatory in shrimp and flounder trawls for over a decade. 
However, compliance varies throughout the States, and green turtle 
mortality continues in the Gulf of Mexico, where shrimp trawling is the 
highest (Lewison et al., 2014). With the current regulations in place, 
an estimated 3,000 green turtles are captured (1,400 killed) by shrimp 
trawls each year in the Gulf and U.S. Southeast Atlantic (http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/section_7/freq_biop/documents/fisheries_bo/shrimp_biop_2014.pdf). These regulations are implemented 
and enforced to varying degrees throughout the Gulf and U.S. Southeast 
Atlantic (see discussion in Factor D).
ii. Dredge Fishing
    Dredge fishing gear is the predominant gear used to harvest sea 
scallops off the mid- and northeastern U.S. Atlantic coast. Sea scallop 
dredges are composed of a heavy steel frame and cutting bar located on 
the bottom part of the frame and a bag made of metal rings and mesh 
twine attached to the frame. Turtles can be struck and injured or 
killed by the dredge frame and/or captured in the bag, where they may 
drown or be further injured or killed when the catch and heavy gear are 
dumped on the vessel deck.
b. Channel Dredging
    In addition to the destruction or degradation of habitat as 
described in Factor A above, periodic dredging of sediments from 
navigational channels can also result in incidental mortality of sea 
turtles. Direct injury or mortality of green turtles by dredges has 
been well documented in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. 
(National Research Council, 1990b). From 1980 to 2013, 105 green 
turtles were impacted as a result of dredging operations in the U.S 
Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Solutions, including modification of 
dredges, have been successfully implemented to reduce mortalities and 
injuries to sea turtles in the United States (73 FR 18984, April 8, 
2008; 77 FR 20728, April 6, 2012), and NMFS imposes annual take limits 
based on the expected number of green turtles impacted that will not, 
directly or indirectly, appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival 
and recovery of the green turtle in the wild.
c. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic
    Boat strikes have been shown to be a major mortality source in 
Florida (Singel et al., 2003). Vessel strikes are a growing concern 
and, as human populations increase in coastal areas,

[[Page 15291]]

vessel strikes are likely to increase (NMFS and FWS, 2008). From 2005 
to 2009, 18.2 percent of all stranded green turtles (695 of 3,818) in 
the U.S. Atlantic (Northeast, Southeast, and Gulf of Mexico) were 
documented as having sustained some type of propeller or collision 
injuries (L. Belskis, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). It is quite likely that 
this is a chronic, albeit unreported, problem near developed coastlines 
in other areas as well, such as Panama (e.g., Or[oacute]s et al., 
2005).
d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly, 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Climate change and sea level rise have the potential to affect green 
turtles significantly in the North Atlantic DPS. North Atlantic turtle 
populations could be affected by the alteration of thermal sand 
characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), resulting in 
the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 
2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Increased sea surface temperatures may 
alter the timing of nesting for some stocks (Weishampel et al., 2004), 
although the implications of changes in nesting timing are unclear. 
Changes in sea temperatures will also likely alter seagrass, 
macroalgae, and invertebrate populations in coastal habitats in many 
regions (Scavia et al., 2002). Further, a significant rise in sea 
level, as is projected for areas within the range of the North Atlantic 
DPS (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 2011), could significantly restrict 
green turtle nesting habitat due to coastal development. Structures on 
the landward side of the beach can effectively prevent access to 
nesting habitat and reduce available nesting habitat (Mosier, 1998). 
The increasing interaction between the structures and the hydrodynamics 
of tide and current, due to sea level rise, often results in the 
alteration of the beach profile seaward and in the immediate vicinity 
of the structure (Pilkey and Wright, 1988; Terchunian, 1988; Tait and 
Griggs, 1990; Plant and Griggs, 1992), increased longshore currents 
that move sand away from the area, loss of interaction between the dune 
and the beach berm, and concentration of wave energy at the ends of the 
structure (Schroeder and Mosier, 1996). Impacts from global climate 
change induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent 
in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    Periodic hurricanes and other weather events are generally 
localized and rarely result in whole-scale losses over multiple nesting 
seasons. However, storm intensity and frequency are predicted to 
increase as a result of climate change (Melillo et al., 2014). The 
negative effects of hurricanes on low-lying and/or developed shorelines 
may be longer-lasting and a greater threat to the DPS overall when 
combined with the effects of climate change, and particularly sea level 
rise.
e. Effects of Cold Stunning
    Cold stunning is the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea 
turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Cold stunning 
of green turtles regularly occurs at several locations in the United 
States, including Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts (Still et al., 2002); 
Long Island Sound, New York (Meylan and Sadove, 1986; Morreale et al., 
1992); the Indian River Lagoon system and the panhandle of Florida 
(Mendon[ccedil]a and Ehrhart, 1982; Witherington and Ehrhart, 1989; 
Foley et al., 2007); and Texas inshore waters (Hildebrand, 1982; 
Shaver, 1990). Cold-stunning events at these foraging areas 
(Witherington and Ehrhart, 1989; McMichael et al., 2006) leads to 
mortality of juvenile and adult green turtles, which may affect the 
present and future green turtle population trend.
f. Contaminants and Marine Debris
    Several activities associated with offshore oil and gas production, 
including oil spills, operational discharge, seismic surveys, explosive 
platform removal, platform lighting, and drilling and production 
activities, are known to affect sea turtles (National Research Council, 
1996; Davis et al., 2000; Viada et al., 2008; Conant et al., 2009; G. 
Gitschlag, NMFS, pers. comm., 2007, as cited in Conant et al., 2009). 
Oil spills near nesting beaches just prior to or during the nesting 
season place nesting females, incubating egg clutches, and hatchlings 
at significant risk from direct exposure to contaminants (Fritts and 
McGehee, 1982; Lutcavage et al., 1997; Witherington, 1999), and have 
negative impacts on nesting habitat. The Deepwater Horizon (Mississippi 
Canyon 252) oil spill, which started April 20, 2010, discharged oil 
into the Gulf of Mexico through July 15, 2010. Witherington et al. 
(2012) note that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was particularly 
harmful to pelagic juvenile green turtles. Due to their size, turtles 
in these stages are more vulnerable as a result of ingesting 
contaminants (Witherington, 2002).
    Green turtles are affected by anthropogenic marine debris 
(including discarded fishing gear) and plastics throughout the North 
Atlantic DPS. Juvenile green turtles in pelagic waters are particularly 
susceptible to these effects as they feed on Sargassum in which there 
is a high occurrence of debris (Wabnitz and Nichols, 2010; Witherington 
et al., 2012). In recent decades, there has been an increase in 
stranded green turtles reported as affected by discarded fishery gear 
throughout the southeastern United States (Teas and Witzell, 1996; 
Adimey et al., 2014).

C. Conservation Efforts for the North Atlantic DPS

    In the North Atlantic, nest protection efforts have been 
implemented on two major green turtle nesting beaches, Tortuguero 
National Park in Costa Rica and Florida, and progress has been made in 
reducing mortality from human-related impacts on other nesting beaches. 
Tortuguero National Park was established in 1976 to protect the nesting 
turtles and habitat at this nesting beach, which is by far the largest 
in the DPS and the western hemisphere. Since that time, the harvest of 
nesting turtles on the beach has been reduced by an order of magnitude 
(Bjorndal et al., 1999). At Tortuguero, Sea Turtle Conservancy 
researchers and volunteers regularly monitor green turtle nesting 
trends, growth rates and reproductive success, and also conduct sea 
turtle lighting surveys, education, and community outreach.
    In Florida, a key effort was the acquisition of the Archie Carr 
National Wildlife Refuge in Florida in 1991 by Federal, State, Brevard 
and Indian River counties, and a non-governmental organization, where 
nesting densities range from 36 nests/km (22 nests/mi) to 262 nests/km 
(419 nests/mi) (D. Bagley, University of Central Florida, pers. comm., 
2014; K. Kneifl, USFWS, pers. comm., 2014). Over 60 percent of the 
available beachfront acquisitions for the Refuge have been completed as 
the result of a multi-agency land acquisition effort. In addition, Hobe 
Sound National Wildlife Refuge, as well as coastal national seashores 
such as the Dry Tortugas National Park and Canaveral National Seashore, 
military installations such as Patrick Air Force Base and Canaveral Air 
Force Station, and State parks where green turtles regularly nest, 
provide protection for nesting turtles. However, despite these efforts, 
alteration of the coastline continues and, outside of publicly-owned 
lands,

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coastal development and associated coastal armoring remain serious 
threats.
    Considerable effort has been expended since the 1980s to document 
and reduce commercial fishing bycatch mortality. In the Atlantic and 
Gulf of Mexico, measures (such as gear modifications, changes to 
fishing practices, and time/area closures) are required to reduce sea 
turtle bycatch in pelagic longline, mid-Atlantic gill net, Virginia 
pound net, scallop dredge, and southeast shrimp and flounder trawl 
fisheries. However, enforcement of regulations depends on available 
resources, and bycatch continues to contribute to mortality. Since 
1989, the United States has prohibited the importation of shrimp 
harvested in a manner that adversely affects sea turtles.
    As a result of conservation efforts, many of the intentional 
impacts directed at sea turtles have been lessened. For example, 
harvest of eggs and adults has been reduced at several nesting areas, 
including Tortuguero, and an increasing number of community-based 
initiatives are in place to reduce the take of turtles in foraging 
areas. However, despite these advances, human impacts continue 
throughout the North Atlantic. The lack of effective monitoring in 
pelagic and near-shore fisheries operations still allows substantial 
direct and indirect mortality, and the uncontrolled development of 
coastal and marine habitats threatens to destroy the supporting 
ecosystems of long-lived green turtles.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Atlantic DPS

    In the North Atlantic DPS, there are several regions that support 
high density nesting concentrations, including possibly the largest in 
the world at Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Green turtle nesting population 
trends have been encouraging, exhibiting long-term increases at all 
major nesting sites, including Tortuguero (Tro[euml]ng, 1998; Campbell 
and Lagueux, 2005; Tro[euml]ng and Rankin, 2005) and Florida (Chaloupka 
et al., 2008; B. Witherington, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation 
Commission, pers. comm., 2013). The North Atlantic DPS is characterized 
by geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites, both 
mainland and insular. The increasing threats are not reflected in the 
current trend for the North Atlantic DPS as it was based on nesting 
numbers and not all current life stages. These increasing threats to 
the population will become apparent when those life stages affected by 
the threats return to nest as the trend information is based solely on 
numbers of nests. This lag time was considered in our analysis. 
However, the 5-factor (section 4(a)(1) of the ESA) analysis revealed 
continuing threats to green turtles and their habitat that affect all 
life stages.
    On nesting beaches, many portions of the DPS continue to be exposed 
to, and are negatively impacted by, coastal development and associated 
beachfront lighting, coastal armoring, and erosion as described in 
Factor A above. Impacts from such development are further exacerbated 
by existing and planned shoreline development and shoreline 
engineering. The current and anticipated increase in armored shoreline 
along high density nesting beaches, particularly in Florida, is a 
substantial unresolved threat to the recovery and stability of this DPS 
as it will result in the permanent loss of nesting habitat.
    Nests and hatchlings are susceptible to predation which is 
prevalent throughout the beaches within the range of the North Atlantic 
DPS. Predation would be an increasing threat without nest protection 
and predatory control programs in place.
    Nesting beaches are also extremely susceptible to sea level rise, 
which will exacerbate some of the issues described above in addition to 
leading to the potential loss of nesting beaches. Along the 
southeastern United States, one climate change model predicted a 1-
meter sea level rise by 2060, resulting in the inundation of more than 
50 percent of coastal wildlife refuges (Flaxman and Vargas-Moreno, 
2011). Green turtle nesting in Florida is concentrated along coastal 
wildlife refuges in southern Florida such as Hobe Sound National 
Wildlife Refuge and the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, with more 
than 90 percent of nesting occurring along southeast Florida. This 
increase in sea level will result in the permanent loss of current 
green turtle nesting habitat. Loss of beach is expected to be worse as 
a result of the increase in hurricane frequency and intensity (Flaxman 
and Vargas-Moreno, 2011). The increasing threat of coastal erosion due 
to climate change and sea level rise is expected to be exacerbated by 
increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas (IPCC, 2007).
    In the water, fisheries bycatch, habitat degradation, direct 
harvest, and FP are major threats to green turtles in the North 
Atlantic DPS. Artisanal and industrial fishing gear, including drift 
nets, set nets, pound nets, and trawls, still cause substantial direct 
and indirect mortality of green turtles (NMFS and USFWS, 2007). In 
addition, degradation and loss of foraging habitat due to pollution, 
including agricultural and residential runoff, anchor damage, dredging, 
channelization, and marina construction remains a threat to both 
juvenile and adult green turtles. Many green turtles in this DPS remain 
susceptible to direct harvesting. Current legal and illegal harvest of 
green turtles and eggs for human consumption continues in the eastern 
Atlantic and the Caribbean. A remaining threat is the directed harvest 
of turtles in Nicaragua that nest at Tortuguero and thus belong to the 
largest and arguably the most important population within the DPS 
(although this population continues to increase in spite of the 
harvest). However, potential degradation or loss of other, smaller 
populations is also of concern, as these contribute to the diversity 
and resilience of the DPS. Finally, the prevalence of FP has reached 
epidemic proportions in some parts of the North Atlantic DPS. The 
extent to which this will affect the long-term outlook for green 
turtles in the North Atlantic DPS is unknown. Nesting trends across the 
DPS continue to increase despite the high incidence of the disease.
    While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in 
many of the critical population parameters (abundance, population 
trends, spatial structure, and diversity/resilience), as indicated 
above, numerous threats continue to act on the DPS, including habitat 
degradation (coastal development and armoring, loss of foraging 
habitat, and pollution), bycatch in fishing gear, continued turtle and 
egg harvesting, FP, and climate change. Importantly, the analysis of 
threats in the Status Review was conducted assuming current management 
regimes would continue.
    Many of the gains made by the species over the past few decades are 
a direct result of ESA protections in the United States, as well as 
protections by U.S. States and local jurisdictions and other countries 
within the DPS range that are influenced by the species' ESA status.
    Because the green turtle is currently listed under the ESA, take 
can only be authorized in the United States through the processes 
provided in sections 7 and 10 of the ESA and their implementing 
regulations. In the southeastern United States, threats to nesting 
beaches and nearshore waters include: Sand placement on nesting beaches 
and associated impacts to nearshore hardbottom habitat; groin, jetty 
and dock construction; and other activities. Any such activities that 
are currently funded, permitted and/or authorized by Federal agencies 
are subject to consultation with USFWS and NMFS,

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and therefore are subject to reasonable and prudent measures to 
minimize effects of these activities as well as conservation 
recommendations associated with those consultations. Federally-managed 
fisheries are also subject to interagency consultation under section 7 
of the ESA. During the consultation process NMFS and USFWS have an 
opportunity to work with the action agency to design practices to 
minimize effects on green turtles, such as when the activity occurs in 
areas or habitats used mostly by green turtles (i.e., seagrass beds and 
nesting beaches). Activities that affect green turtles and do not 
involve Federal agencies, such as beach driving, some beach armoring, 
and research, must comply with section 10 of the ESA to avoid violating 
the statute. Section 10 permits require avoiding, minimizing, and 
mitigating impacts to green turtles to the extent possible. In addition 
to the above requirements, the requirement for use of TEDs in fisheries 
within the United States and in fisheries outside of the United States 
that export wild-caught shrimp to the United States is tied to listing 
under the ESA.
    This DPS has exhibited increases at major nesting sites, and has 
several stronghold populations. Green turtles in the U.S. Atlantic have 
increased steadily since being protected by the ESA (Suckling et al., 
2006). ESA driven programs such as land acquisition, nest protection, 
development of the TEDs, and educational programs provide a 
conservation benefit to green turtles. The species is conservation 
dependent or conservation-reliant in that even when biological recovery 
goals are achieved, maintenance of viable populations will require 
continuing, species-specific intervention (Scott et al., 2010). Without 
alternate mechanisms in place to continue certain existing conservation 
efforts and protections, threats would be expected to increase and 
population trends may be curtailed or reversed. Considering the 
conservation dependence of the species, significant concerns remain 
regarding the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms (one of the five 
section 4(a)(1) factors (Factor D), especially when we evaluate the 
status of the DPS absent the protections of the ESA.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the North Atlantic DPS as 
threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of the increasing nesting population trends and 
geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, 
continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable 
future.

VIII. Mediterranean DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Mediterranean DPS

    The Mediterranean Sea is a virtually enclosed basin occupying an 
area of approximately 2.5 million square kilometers. The Mediterranean 
DPS is bounded by the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, 
excluding the Black Sea. The westernmost border of the range of this 
DPS is marked by the Strait of Gibraltar (Figure 2).
    Nesting in the Mediterranean occurs mostly in the eastern 
Mediterranean, with three nesting concentrations in Turkey, Cyprus, and 
Syria. Currently, approximately 452 to 2,051 nests are laid in the 
Mediterranean each year--about 70 percent in Turkey, 15 percent in 
Cyprus, and 15 percent in Syria, with trace nesting in Israel, Egypt, 
the Hellenic Republic (Greece), and Lebanon (Kasparek et al., 2001; 
Rees et al., 2008; Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). There are no sites 
with greater than 500 nesting females. These numbers are depleted from 
historical levels (Kasparek et al., 2001). In terms of distribution of 
nesting sites in the Mediterranean, there are 32 sites, with Akyatan, 
Turkey being the largest nesting site, hosting 25 percent of the total 
annual nesting (35-245 nesting females; T[uuml]rkozan and Kaska, 2010).
    There are seven sites for which 10 years or more of recent data are 
available for annual nesting female abundance (a criterion for 
presenting trends in a bar graph). Of these, only one site--West Coast, 
Cyprus--met our standards for conducting a PVA. Of the seven sites, 
five appeared to be increasing, although some only slightly, and two 
had no apparent trend. However, while the Mediterranean DPS appears to 
be stable or increasing, it is severely depleted relative to historical 
levels. This dynamic is particularly apparent along the coast of 
Palestine/Israel, where 300-350 nests were deposited each year in the 
1950s (Sella, 1995) compared to a mean of eight nests each year from 
1993 to 2008 (Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010).
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the 
Mediterranean has been extensive and the coverage in this region is 
substantial. Within the Mediterranean, rookeries are characterized by 
one dominant haplotype CM-A13 and a recent study showed no population 
substructuring between several rookeries in Cyprus and Turkey (Bagda et 
al., 2012). However, analysis using unpublished data from additional 
rookery samples in Cyprus shows evidence for two stocks: Cyprus 
(Karpaz, North Cyprus and Lara Bay; Bagda et al., 2012; Dutton 
unpublished data, 2013); and Turkey (Akayatan, Alata, Kazanli, Samandag 
and Yumurtal[inodot]k; Bagda et al., 2012). The demography of green 
turtles in the Mediterranean appears to be consistent among the various 
nesting assemblages (Broderick and Godley, 1996; Broderick et al., 
2002a). This consistency in parameters such as mean nesting size, 
inter-nesting interval, clutch size, hatching success, nesting season, 
and clutch frequency suggests a low level of population structuring in 
the Mediterranean. Mediterranean turtles have not been detected 
foraging outside the Mediterranean (e.g., Lahanas et al., 1998; 
Monz[oacute]n-Arg[uuml]ello et al., 2010). Despite years of flipper 
tagging (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 1995, 2010; Y. Kaska, 
Pamukkale University, pers. comm., 2013), few tag recoveries have been 
reported. However, satellite tracking revealed that post-nesting 
turtles migrate primarily along the coast from their nesting beach to 
foraging grounds, increasing the likelihood of interacting with 
fisheries (Broderick et al., 2002a).
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall spatial range 
of the DPS is limited. Green turtle nesting is found primarily in the 
eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, and 
Egypt: Kasparek et al., 2001). The nesting season is consistent 
throughout the range of this DPS (June to August; Broderick et al., 
2002a), thus limiting the temporal buffering against climate change in 
terms of impacts due to storms and other seasonal events. The fact that 
turtles nest on both insular and continental sites suggests some degree 
of nesting diversity, but with the sites so close together, the 
benefits of this diversity may be minimal.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Mediterranean DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    In the Mediterranean, destruction and modification of green turtle 
nesting habitat result from coastal development and construction, 
beachfront lighting, sand extraction, beach erosion, vehicular and 
pedestrian traffic, and beach pollution (Kasparek et al., 2001; Casale 
and Margaritoulis, 2010). These activities may directly affect the 
amount and suitability of nesting habitat available to nesting females 
and thus affect the nesting success of green turtles, as well as the 
survivability of

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eggs and hatchlings. In Turkey, coastal construction on Samanda[gbreve] 
and Kazanli beaches is of concern, particularly from associated 
lighting and human activities on the beach (T[uuml]rkozan and Kaska, 
2010). In Cyprus, the increased construction of beachfront hotels and 
other properties in some areas in recent years, as well as the 
associated increase in beachfront lighting and human activity on the 
beach, is decreasing the quality of nesting habitat (Demetropoulos and 
Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010). In Turkey and Latakia 
beach in Syria, beach erosion and sand extraction also pose a problem 
to green turtle nesting habitat (T[uuml]rkozan and Kaska, 2010; Rees et 
al., 2010).
    Nesting beaches in the eastern Mediterranean are exposed to high 
levels of pollution and marine debris, in particular the beaches of 
Cyprus, Turkey, and Egypt (Cami[ntilde]as, 2004). In Turkey, marine 
debris washing ashore is a substantial problem and has degraded nesting 
beaches, especially Akyatan and Samanda[gbreve] beaches. In Syria, Jony 
and Rees (2008) reported that beaches contain a large amount of plastic 
litter that washes ashore or is blown in from dumps located in the 
beach dunes; this litter has been documented as accumulating in such 
large amounts that it can hinder nesting females from locating suitable 
nesting sites and cause emergent hatchlings to have difficulty crawling 
to the sea (Rees et al., 2010). In Cyprus, marine debris has also been 
a significant problem on some beaches, although organized beach clean-
ups in recent years have greatly reduced the amount of litter on the 
beach (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 
2010).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Dynamite fishing and boat anchors affect green turtles and their 
habitat in the Mediterranean. Khalil et al. (2009) reported that 
dynamite fishing offshore of nesting beaches is a common problem in 
Lebanon. Illegal dynamite fishing also occurs year round in Libya 
(Hamza, 2010), and, although illegal, explosions at sea that are likely 
due to dynamite fishing have been reported off the coast of Syria 
(Saad, unpubl. data, as cited in Rees et al., 2010). Further, the 
Mediterranean is a site of intense tourist activity, and corresponding 
boat anchoring also may affect green turtle foraging habitat in the 
neritic environment.
    Because the Mediterranean is an enclosed sea, organic and inorganic 
wastes, toxic effluents, and other pollutants rapidly affect the 
ecosystem (Cami[ntilde]as, 2004). The Mediterranean has been declared a 
``special area'' by the MARPOL Convention (International Convention for 
the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), in which deliberate petroleum 
discharges from vessels are banned, but numerous repeated offenses are 
still thought to occur (Pavlakis et al., 1996).
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Overutilization for commercial purposes likely was a factor that 
contributed to the historical declines of this DPS. Egg collection and 
turtle harvest for individual consumption still occurs in Egypt (Clarke 
et al., 2000; Nada and Casale, 2008). A study found that the open 
selling of sea turtles in Egypt generally has been curtailed due to 
enforcement efforts, but a high level of intentional killing for the 
black market or for direct personal consumption still exists (Nada and 
Casale, 2008). Several hundred turtles are currently estimated to be 
slaughtered each year in Egypt (Nada and Casale, 2008). In Syria and 
Egypt, as reported for other countries, green turtles incidentally 
captured by fishers are sometimes eaten (Nada and Casale, 2008; Rees et 
al., 2010). Small quantities of stuffed turtles and juvenile turtle 
carapaces, presumably of Syrian origin, have been observed for sale in 
Latakia and Damascus (Rees et al., 2010).
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    Nest and hatchling predation likely was a factor that contributed 
to the historical decline of the Mediterranean DPS. There have been no 
records of FP or other diseases in green turtles in this DPS. In this 
DPS, green turtle eggs and hatchlings are subject to depredation by 
wild canids (i.e., foxes (Vulpes vulpes), golden jackals (Canis 
aureus), feral and domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), and ghost 
crabs (Ocypode cursor; van Piggelen and Strijbosch, 1993; Brown and 
MacDonald, 1995; Aureggi et al., 1999, 2005; Simms et al., 2002; 
Akcinar et al., 2006; Jony and Rees, 2008; Khalil et al., 2009; Aureggi 
and Khalil, 2010; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et 
al., 2010; Rees et al., 2010).
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There are at least 13 international treaties and/or regulatory 
mechanisms that pertain to the Mediterranean, and nearly all countries 
lining the Mediterranean have some level of national legislation 
directed at sea turtle protection. The SRT analysis of these existing 
regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their 
current levels.
    Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS 
that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the 
countries within this DPS. Most Mediterranean countries have developed 
national legislation to protect sea turtles and nesting habitats 
(Casale and Margaritoulis, 2010). The following countries have laws to 
protect green turtles: Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, 
Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. In addition, at 
least 13 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to 
the conservation of green turtles in the Mediterranean DPS. National 
protective legislation generally prohibits intentional killing, 
harassment, possession, trade, or attempts at these (Margaritoulis et 
al., 2003). In addition, some countries have site-specific legislation 
or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. These are 
implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the DPS. There 
are some national regulations, within this DPS, that specially address 
the harvest of green turtles.
    In western Cyprus, Lara-Toxeftra beaches have been afforded 
protection through the Fisheries Law and Regulations since 1989 
(Margaritoulis, 2007). In northern Cyprus, four beaches (Alagadi Beach, 
Karpaz Peninsular, South Karpaz, and Akdeniz) have been designated as 
Special Protected Areas (Fuller et al., 2010). These four areas include 
the third and fifth most important green turtle nesting beaches in the 
Mediterranean (Kasparek et al., 2001). In Syria, establishment of a 
protected area at Latakia beach, the most important green turtle 
nesting beach in the country, is being sought but is facing strong 
opposition from the tourism sector (Rees et al., 2010). While it is 
important to recognize the success of these protected areas, we must 
also note that the protection has been in place for some time and the 
threats to the species remain (particularly from increasing tourism 
activities). It is unlikely that the protective measures discussed here 
are sufficient for the conservation of the species in the 
Mediterranean.
    Regulatory mechanisms are not in place in many countries within 
this DPS to address the major threat of sea turtle bycatch. Some of the 
countries in which this DPS is located limit the number and type of 
fishing licenses issued but sea turtle bycatch is not considered in 
these authorizations. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be 
sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in

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the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries 
operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing 
distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated 
effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations 
on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive 
bycatch reduction technologies. Our Status Review did not reveal 
regulatory mechanisms in place to specifically address coastal 
development, marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of climate 
change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture of sea turtles in artisanal and commercial 
fisheries is a significant threat to the survival of green turtles in 
the Mediterranean. Fishing practices alone have been estimated to 
result in over 150,000 sea turtle captures per year, with approximately 
50,000 mortalities (Lucchetti and Sala, 2009; Casale, 2011) and sea 
turtle bycatch in multiple gears in the Mediterranean is considered 
among the most urgent conservation priorities globally (Wallace et al., 
2010).
i. Longline Fisheries
    In the Mediterranean, surface longline fisheries are a source of 
green turtle bycatch (Cami[ntilde]as, 2004). Incidental captures have 
been reported from Cyprus (Godley et al., 1998), Turkey (Godley et al., 
1998), Italy (Laurent et al., 2001), and Egypt (Nada, 2001; 
Cami[ntilde]as, 2004). In Egypt, based on fleet data and catch rates 
reported by fishers during the 2000s, the total number of sea turtles 
(i.e., all species) bycaught in longlines was estimated to be over 
2,200 per year (Nada and Casale, 2008). Fishers also reported that some 
of the caught turtles are dead, and the incidence of mortality is 
particularly high in longlines and gill nets.
ii. Set Net (Gill Net) Fishing
    Casale (2008) considered mortality by set nets to be 60 percent, 
with a resulting estimate of 16,000 turtles killed per year. However, a 
breakdown of these estimates by turtle species is not available. Most 
of these turtles are likely juveniles, with an average size of 45.4 cm 
CCL (n=74, Casale, 2008).
iii. Trawl Fisheries
    Green turtles have been reported as incidentally captured in bottom 
trawls in Egypt (Nada and Casale, 2011), Greece (Margaritoulis et al., 
2003), Tunisia (Laurent et al., 1990), Turkey (Laurent et al., 1996; 
Oru[ccedil], 2001), Syria, Israel, and Libya (Casale et al., 2010), but 
are likely also captured by bottom trawlers in other neritic foraging 
areas in the eastern Mediterranean (Casale et al., 2010). Laurent et 
al. (1996) estimated that approximately 10,000 to 15,000 sea turtles 
were being captured annually by bottom trawling in the eastern 
Mediterranean. Although most of the turtles taken were loggerheads, 
they estimated that the number of green turtles taken was 1,000 to 
3,000 annually in Turkey and Egypt alone. More recently, Casale (2011) 
compiled available trawl bycatch data throughout the Mediterranean and 
reported that Italy and Tunisia have the highest level of sea turtle 
bycatch, potentially over 20,000 captures per year combined, and 
Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Libya, Greece, and Egypt each have an 
estimated 1,900 or more sea turtle captures per year. Further, Albania, 
Algeria, Cyprus, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, and Syria may each capture a 
few hundred sea turtles per year (Casale, 2011). Available data suggest 
the annual number of sea turtle captures by all Mediterranean trawlers 
may be greater than 39,000 (Casale, 2011). Although most of the turtles 
reported by Casale (2011) as taken by bottom trawlers were undoubtedly 
loggerheads, a few thousand were likely green turtles based on earlier 
reports (Laurent et al., 1990; Laurent et al., 1996; Oru[ccedil], 2001; 
Margaritoulis et al., 2003; Nada and Casale, 2008).
b. Vessel Strikes and Boat Traffic
    Propeller and collision injuries from boats and ships are becoming 
more common for sea turtles in the Mediterranean, although it is 
unclear as to whether the events, or just the reporting of the 
injuries, are increasing. Speedboat and jet-ski impacts are of 
particular concern in areas of intense tourist activity, such as 
Greece, Turkey, and Syria. Boats operating near sea turtle nesting 
beaches during the nesting season are likely to either cause females to 
abandon nesting attempts or cause their injury or death 
(Cami[ntilde]as, 2004). Males may also be affected in high-use boating 
areas where sea turtle mating occurs (Demetropoulos, 2000; Rees et al., 
2010).
c. Pollution
    Unattended or discarded nets, floating plastics and bags, and tar 
balls are of particular concern in the Mediterranean (Cami[ntilde]as, 
2004; Margaritoulis, 2007). Monofilament netting appears to be the most 
dangerous waste produced by the fishing industry (Cami[ntilde]as, 
2004).
    The discharge of chemical substances, including highly toxic 
chromium compounds from a soda-chromium factory close to the Kazanli 
nesting beach in Turkey, is cause for concern (Kasparek et al., 2001; 
Venizelos and Kasparek, 2006).
d. Effects of Climate Change
    Both the marine and terrestrial realms will be influenced by 
temperature increases and will likely undergo alterations that will 
adversely affect green turtles. Mediterranean turtle populations could 
be affected by the alteration of thermal sand characteristics (from 
global warming), resulting in the reduction or cessation of male 
hatchling production (Kasparek et al., 2001; Cami[ntilde]as, 2004; 
Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). In northern Cyprus, 
green turtle hatchling sex ratios are already thought to be highly 
female biased (approximately 95 percent female; Wright et al., 2012). 
This, in tandem with predicted future rises in temperatures, is cause 
for concern (Fuller et al., 2010). As temperatures increase, there is 
also concern that incubation temperatures will reach levels that exceed 
the thermal tolerance for embryonic development, thus increasing embryo 
and hatchling mortality (Fuller et al., 2010). Further, a significant 
rise in sea level would restrict green turtle nesting habitat in the 
eastern Mediterranean. While sea turtles have survived past eras that 
have included significant temperature fluctuations, future climate 
change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles 
cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread extirpations 
(Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change induced by 
human activities are likely to become more apparent in future years 
(IPCC, 2007).
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch and 
marine pollution that occurs throughout the range of the Mediterranean 
DPS are significant threats to this DPS. In addition, boat strikes and 
changes likely to result from climate change are an increasing threat 
to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts

    Regional and national efforts are underway to conserve green 
turtles (often all sea turtles) throughout the range of the DPS. The 
extent to which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts 
is difficult to ascertain.
    Green turtle nesting primarily occurs in Turkey, Cyprus, and Syria, 
and a

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notable proportion of nesting in those areas is protected through 
various mechanisms. In Turkey, three important green turtle nesting 
beaches (Alata, Kazanli, and Akyatan) were all designated as protected 
areas by the Turkish Ministry of Culture, while two other beaches 
(Belek and G[ouml]sku Delta) also have some level of protected status 
(Kasparek et al., 2001; Fuller et al., 2010). These five protected 
beaches represent approximately 60 percent of nesting in Turkey (see 
Canbolat et al., 2009 and Fuller et al., 2010).
    There has been success within these protected areas, but as the 
protection has been in place for some time and the threats to the 
species remain (particularly from increasing tourism activities), it is 
unlikely that the protective measures discussed here are sufficient for 
the conservation of the species in the Mediterranean.
    Marine debris is also a significant problem on many green turtle 
nesting beaches in the eastern Mediterranean, in particular the nesting 
beaches of Cyprus and Turkey (Cami[ntilde]as, 2004; Demetropoulos and 
Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 2010; T[uuml]rkozan and Kaska, 
2010). Although organized beach clean-ups in recent years on some 
beaches in Cyprus have greatly reduced the amount of litter on the 
beach (Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 2010; Fuller et al., 
2010), it is still an overall pervasive problem.
    Protection of marine habitats is in the early stages in the 
Mediterranean, as in other areas of the world. Off the Lara-Toxeftra 
nesting beaches in western Cyprus, a marine protection zone extends to 
the 20-m isobath (i.e., 20-m depth line) as delineated by the Fisheries 
Regulation (Margaritoulis, 2007; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 
2010). As mentioned above, establishment of a protected area at Latakia 
beach in Syria is being sought and would include protection of a 
section of sea offshore; however, it is facing strong opposition from 
the tourism sector (Serra, 2008; Rees et al., 2010).

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings

    The Mediterranean DPS is characterized by low green turtle nesting 
abundance at 32 different locations, with many of these sites having 
only one or two known nesting females and none having greater than 245 
nesting females. While some of these sites show stable or increasing 
trends, the extremely low nesting abundance of this DPS compared to 
historical abundance creates an intrinsically high risk to the long-
term stability of the population. The spatial range of the population 
is limited to the eastern Mediterranean, and the nesting season is 
consistent throughout this DPS (June to August; Broderick et al., 
2002a), thus limiting the temporal buffering against climate change in 
terms of impacts due to storms and other seasonal events. The fact that 
turtles nest on both insular and continental sites suggests some degree 
of nesting diversity but, with the sites so close together, the 
benefits of this diversity may be minimal. Mitochondrial DNA studies 
have identified two stocks but, in general there is low population 
substructuring in the Mediterranean.
    The five-factor analysis in the Status Review reveals numerous 
significant threats to green turtles within the range of the DPS. 
Coastal development, beachfront lighting, erosion resulting from sand 
extraction, illegal harvest, detrimental fishing practices, and marine 
pollution both at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds are 
continuing concerns across the Mediterranean DPS, and are 
insufficiently tempered by conservation efforts. Current illegal 
harvest of green turtles for human consumption continues as a moderate 
threat to this DPS. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the Mediterranean 
Sea, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles in pelagic 
longline, set net, and trawl fisheries. Additional threats from boat 
strikes, which are becoming more common, and changes likely to result 
from climate change will negatively affect this DPS.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Mediterranean DPS as 
endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance, limited spatial 
distribution, and exposure to increasing threats, we find that this DPS 
is presently in danger of extinction throughout its range.

IX. South Atlantic DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the South Atlantic DPS

    The South Atlantic DPS's range boundary begins at the border of 
Panama and Colombia at 7.5[deg] N., 77[deg] W., heads due north to 
10.5[deg] N., 77[deg] W., then northeast to 19[deg] N., 63.5[deg] W., 
and along 19[deg] N. latitude to Mauritania in Africa, to include the 
U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. It extends along the coast of 
Africa to South Africa, with the southern border being 40[deg] S. 
latitude.
    Green turtle nesting occurs on beaches along the western coast of 
Africa from southern Mauritania to South Africa, in the middle of the 
South Atlantic on Ascension Island, in the Caribbean portion of the 
South Atlantic including Caribbean South America, and along eastern 
South America down through Brazil (Figure 2). In the eastern South 
Atlantic, significant sea turtle habitats have been identified, 
including green turtle feeding grounds in Corisco Bay, Equatorial 
Guinea/Gabon (Formia, 1999); Congo (Bal et al., 2007; Girard et al., 
2014); Mussulo Bay, Angola (Carr and Carr, 1991); and Principe Island 
(SWOT, 2010). In the western South Atlantic, juvenile and adult green 
turtles utilize foraging areas throughout the Caribbean areas of the 
South Atlantic, often resulting in interactions with fisheries 
occurring in those same waters (Dow et al., 2007). While no nesting 
occurs as far south as Uruguay and Argentina, both countries have 
important foraging grounds for South Atlantic green turtles (Lopez-
Mendilaharsu et al., 2006; Lezama, 2009; Gonz[aacute]lez Carman et al., 
2011; Prosdocimi et al., 2012; Rivas-Zinno, 2012). Within the range of 
the South Atlantic DPS, there are a total of 51 nesting sites (some 
being individual beaches and others representing multiple nesting 
beaches) that can be roughly divided into four regions: western Africa, 
Ascension Island, Brazil, and the South Atlantic Caribbean (including 
Colombia, the Guianas, and Aves Island in addition to the numerous 
small, insular nesting sites). Much of the South Atlantic is data poor 
with only occasional or incomplete nesting surveys. Therefore, for 37 
of the 51 identified nesting areas of this DPS, we were not able to 
estimate nesting female abundance, even for relatively large nesting 
sites such as French Guiana. Of the nesting sites for which an estimate 
could be derived, three account for the bulk of the nesting: 
Poil[atilde]o, Guinea-Bissau (29,016 nesting females; Catry et al., 
2009); Ascension Island, UK (13,417 nesting females; S. Weber, 
Ascension Island Government, pers. comm., 2013); and the Galibi 
Reserve, Suriname (9,406 nesting females; Schulz, 1975; Weijerman et 
al., 1998). There are two sites with >10,000 nesting females 
(Poil[atilde]o and Ascension Island); one site with 5,001-10,000 
nesting females (Suriname); three sites with 1,001-5,000 nesting 
females (Trindade Island, Brazil (2,016; Almeida et al., 2011; Projecto 
Tamar, 2011); Aves Island, Venezuela (2,833; Prieto et al., 2012); and 
Matapica Reserve, Suriname (3,661; A. Turney, pers. comm., 2012). There 
are three sites with 501-1,001 nesting females, three sites with 101-
500, two sites with 51-100, and 37 unquantified sites. Poil[atilde]o

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accounts for almost 46 percent of the total number of nesting females.
    Long-term monitoring data for this DPS are relatively scarce. There 
are three sites for which 10 or more years of recent data are available 
for annual nesting female abundance (a criterion for presenting trends 
in a bar graph in the Status Review): (1) Ascension Island, UK; (2) 
Galibi and Matapica Reserves, Suriname; and (3) Atol das Rocas, Brazil. 
Together, the first two sites represent approximately 26,759 nesting 
females (42 percent of the population), while the third site has only 
275 nesting females (Bellini et al., 2013). Ascension Island, and 
Galibi and Matapica Reserves have exhibited substantial increases since 
the 1970s. Although they did not meet the criteria for presenting bar 
graphs, there are indications of trends at other beaches in the South 
Atlantic, such as increasing trends at Isla Trindade, Brazil, and Aves 
Island, Venezuela, and decreasing trends at Bioko Island, Equatorial 
Guinea.
    With regard to spatial structure, the phylogenic relationship of 
the eastern Caribbean nesting sites indicates that, despite the close 
proximity of other Caribbean nesting sites, they are more closely 
related to the nesting sites in the South Atlantic (M. Jensen, NRC, 
unpubl. data). Green turtle nesting sites found in Brazil, Ascension 
Island, and West Africa have shallow structuring and are dominated by a 
common and widespread haplotype, CM-A8, that is found in high frequency 
across all nesting sites in the South Atlantic (Bjorndal et al., 2006; 
Formia et al., 2006). A recent study showed that a large proportion of 
juvenile green turtles foraging in Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic 
originated from distant nesting sites across the Atlantic, namely 
Suriname (38 percent), Ascension Island (12 percent), and Guinea Bissau 
(19 percent), suggesting that, like the loggerheads, green turtles in 
the Atlantic undertake transoceanic developmental migrations 
(Monz[oacute]n-Arg[uuml]ello et al., 2010). The fact that long distance 
dispersal is only seen for juvenile turtles suggests that larger adult-
sized turtles return to forage within the region of their natal nesting 
sites, thereby limiting the potential for gene flow across larger 
scales (Monz[oacute]n-Arg[uuml]ello et al., 2010). Important foraging 
grounds in the western South Atlantic, such as those off of Brazil, 
Uruguay and Argentina, are shared by turtles from various nesting 
assemblages in the western South Atlantic and Ascension Island. 
Important foraging grounds in the eastern South Atlantic, such as the 
Gulf of Guinea, are shared by turtles from the eastern South Atlantic 
as well as juveniles from Suriname and Ascension Island.
    Overall, many demographic parameters of green turtles in the South 
Atlantic appear to vary widely among the various nesting assemblages. 
However, this variability in parameters such as remigration interval, 
clutch size, hatching success, sex ratio, and clutch frequency is not 
separated out regionally within the range of the DPS and therefore does 
not necessarily suggest a high level of population structuring. Average 
sizes of nesting females are the largest reported for females globally 
(Hirth, 1997; Almeida et al., 2011; Bellini et al., 2013).
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall range of the 
DPS is extensive and varied, with both insular and continental nesting. 
Ascension Island, one of the largest nesting sites, is isolated and 
protected in the middle of the South Atlantic, and appears to have 
migratory connections to nesting sites on the eastern and western ends 
of the DPS's range. The insular sites vary quite a bit in terms of 
potential impacts from sea level rise and tropical weather. Aves 
Island, one of the largest Caribbean nesting sites within the range of 
the South Atlantic DPS is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise as 
it is a very low-lying island.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the South Atlantic DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    At continental sites in the South Atlantic DPS destruction and 
modification of sea turtle nesting habitat (for green turtles and other 
species) result from coastal development and construction, placement of 
erosion control structures and other barriers to nesting, beachfront 
lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, sand extraction, beach 
erosion, beach sand placement, beach pollution, removal of native 
vegetation, and planting of non-native vegetation (D'Amato and 
Marczwski, 1993; Marcovaldi and dei Marcovaldi, 1999; Naro-Maciel et 
al., 1999; Broderick et al., 2002b; Marcovaldi et al., 2002; Formia et 
al., 2003; Tanner, 2013).
    In very low-lying islands such as Aves, rising sea levels and 
increased storms could result in a loss of nesting habitat, thus 
potentially eliminating their functionality as nesting beaches.
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    On the western side of the South Atlantic, the Brazil Current Large 
Marine Ecosystem (LME) region is characterized by the Global 
International Waters Assessment (GIWA) as suffering severe impacts in 
the areas of pollution, coastal habitat modification, and 
overexploitation of fish stocks (Marques et al., 2004). The Patagonian 
Shelf LME is moderately affected by pollution, habitat modification, 
and overfishing (Mugetti et al., 2004). In the Canary Current LME, the 
area is characterized by the GIWA as severely impacted in the area of 
modification or loss of ecosystems or ecotones and health impacts, but 
these impacts are decreasing (http://www.lme.noaa.gov). The Celtic-
Biscay Shelf LME is affected by alterations to the seabed, agriculture, 
and sewage (Vald[eacute]z-Gonz[aacute]lez and Ram[iacute]rez-Bautista, 
2002). The Gulf of Guinea has been characterized as severely impacted 
in the area of solid wastes by the GIWA; this and other pollution 
indicators are increasing (http://www.lme.noaa.gov). On the eastern 
side of the South Atlantic, the Benguela Current LME has been 
moderately impacted by overfishing, with future conditions expected to 
worsen by the GIWA (Prochazka et al., 2005).
    In Brazil, green turtles in degraded coastal areas that have 
ingested plastic debris have been found to have diets that are lower in 
diversity and quality (Santos et al., 2011). Off the northwestern coast 
of Suriname run-off from rice production and other agricultural 
activities is a problem (Reichart and Fretey, 1993) and likely would 
have similar impacts. The reduction of carrying capacity for green 
turtles in seagrass beds impacted by anchor damage in popular bays in 
the U.S. Virgin Islands has also been documented (Williams, 1988). 
Likewise, sediment contamination from coastal and upstream industrial 
sites has been recognized in the Caribbean, including St. Croix (Ross 
and DeLorenzo, 1997), and has the potential to impact green turtle 
habitat as well as the turtles themselves. Such coastal degradation has 
been seen throughout the Caribbean areas that fall within the range of 
the South Atlantic DPS (Dow et al., 2007).
    In summary, we find that the South Atlantic DPS of the green turtle 
is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and 
marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices as 
considered above in Factor A. However, sufficient data are not 
available to assess the significance of

[[Page 15298]]

these threats to the persistence of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Overutilization for commercial purposes likely was a factor that 
contributed to the historical declines of this DPS. Although legal and 
illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles persists as a threat 
to this DPS, it does not appear to be a significant threat to its 
resilience. Eggs are taken for human consumption in Brazil, but the 
amount is considered minor when compared to historical rates of egg 
collection (Marcovaldi and dei Marcovaldi, 1999; Marcovaldi et al., 
2005; Almeida and Mendes, 2007). Use of sea turtles, including green 
turtles, for medicinal purposes occasionally occurs in northeastern 
Brazil (Alvez and Rosa, 2006; Braga-Filho and Schiavetti, 2013). Egg 
harvest occurred in the Galibi area until 1967 when a ban was enacted. 
Subsequently, a controlled harvest was allowed until the early 2000s 
via permit with poaching continuing at approximately 100 to 450 nests 
per year (Reichart and Fretey, 1993).
    Throughout the Caribbean areas of the South Atlantic DPS, harvest 
of green turtle eggs and turtles, both illegal and legal, continues 
(Dow et al., 2007). Among the British Caribbean territories within the 
South Atlantic DPS (including Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, the British 
Virgin Islands, and Montserrat) there are legal sea turtle fisheries, 
with anywhere from a few (Montserrat) to over a thousand (Turks and 
Caicos) green turtles taken per year (Godley et al., 2004).
    Turtles are harvested along the west African coast and, in some 
areas, are considered a significant source of food and income due to 
the poverty of many residents (Formia et al., 2003; Tom[aacute]s et 
al., 2010). In the Bijag[oacute]s Archipelago (Guinea-Bissau), all sea 
turtles are protected by national law, but enforcement is limited and 
many turtles are killed by locals for consumption (Catry et al., 2009).
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    FP is highly variable in its presence and severity throughout the 
range of the DPS, with areas of lower water quality, especially due to 
nutrient enrichment, often being the sites with the most prevalent and 
most severe cases of FP. In Brazilian waters, FP has been documented 
but is highly variable among sites (Williams and Bunkley-Williams, 
2000). FP has been confirmed among green turtles of Africa's Atlantic 
coast, from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea (Formia et al., 2013), Guinea-
Bissau (Catry et al., 2009), Gambia, and Senegal (Barnett et al., 
2004), the Congo and Principe Island (Girard et al., 2013). The 
prevalence varies greatly among locations.
    Eggs and nests in Brazil experience depredation, primarily by foxes 
(Dusycion vetulus; Marcovaldi and Laurent, 1996). Nests laid by green 
turtles in the southern Atlantic African coastline experience predation 
from local wildlife and feral animals, such as jackals (Canus sp.; Weir 
et al., 2007). Shark predation on green turtles, especially by tiger 
sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), has been documented off northeastern Brazil 
at a frequency high enough to indicate that green turtles may be an 
important food source for tiger sharks off Brazilian waters 
(Bornatowski et al., 2012). Predation on nesting females can also occur 
from large predators, such as jaguars (Panthera onca) in Suriname 
(Autar, 1994). On Ascension Island predation by domestic and feral cats 
(Felus sp.) and dogs (Canus sp.), frigate birds (Fregata minor), land 
crabs (subphylum Crustacea), and fish (class Osteichthyes) have all 
been cited as mortality sources for hatchling green turtles (Broderick 
et al., 2002a). On the Bijag[oacute]s Archipelago nest predation by 
monitor lizards (Varanus sp.) was highly variable, with green turtle 
nests experiencing 76 percent predation rates on Jo[atilde]o Vieira (da 
Silva Ferreira, 2012). On the southern beaches of Bioko in the Gulf of 
Guinea, predation on eggs and hatchlings can come from a wide variety 
of species, such as ghost crabs (family Ocypodidae), ants (family 
Formicidae), monitor lizards, monkeys (suborder Haplorrhini), 
porcupines (order Rodentia), vultures (family Accipitridae) and crows 
(Corvus sp.), in addition to village dogs (Tom[aacute]s et al., 1999).
    Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative 
data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats 
on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There are at least 20 national and international treaties and/or 
regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the South Atlantic DPS. 
Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green turtles 
for most of the countries within this DPS are implemented to various 
degrees throughout the range of the DPS, with some countries having no 
commitment to the implementation of the regulation. The main threats to 
South Atlantic green turtles include fishery bycatch, marine debris and 
pollution, habitat destruction affecting eggs and hatchlings at nesting 
beaches, and nest and hatchling predation. Most South Atlantic 
countries, including those in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa, 
have developed national legislation and have various projects sponsored 
by governments, local communities, academic institutions, and non-
governmental organizations to protect sea turtles and nesting and 
foraging habitats to varying degrees (Dow et al., 2007; Formia et al., 
2003). The consistency and effectiveness of such programs likely vary 
greatly across countries and over time based on resource availability 
and political stability. In addition, some countries have site specific 
legislation or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. 
Regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles (often all 
sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. The extent to 
which threats have been reduced as a result of these efforts is 
difficult to ascertain. The following countries have laws to protect 
green turtles: Angola, Argentina, Ascension Island, Benin, Brazil, 
British Virgin Islands, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia, Congo, 
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, French Guiana, 
Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Guyana, Ivory Coast, 
Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, St. Helena, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, 
Sierra-Leone, South Africa, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks 
and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Venezuela.
    The Status Review described limited regulatory mechanisms to 
address bycatch, such as TED requirements; however, there are no 
widespread regulations to address bycatch as a result of the gill net 
fisheries. A variety of countries operate industrial trawling off 
Guinea-Bissau. The national government does not have any requirements 
for TED use in their waters. There is also extensive illegal fishing 
occurring (Catry et al., 2009). While the Bolama-Bijag[oacute]s 
Biosphere Reserve covers the entire archipelago and provides some 
protection through the management of the reserve and the survey work 
patrolling the areas, limited enforcement and resource shortages limit 
the effectiveness of the reserve. It is unlikely that bycatch 
mortality, discussed in more detail in Factor E, can be sufficiently 
reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the 
diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack 
of comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort,

[[Page 15299]]

limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation 
measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement 
capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction 
technologies.
    The Status Review did not reveal any regulatory mechanisms in place 
to specifically address coastal development, marine pollution, sea 
level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute 
to the extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Green turtles are incidentally captured throughout the South 
Atlantic DPS in pelagic and demersal longlines, drift and set gill 
nets, bottom and mid-water trawls, fishing dredges, pound nets and 
weirs, haul and purse seines, pots and traps, and hook and line gear.
    There is also substantial documentation of the interaction of 
small-scale artisanal gill net fisheries with green turtles in their 
foraging grounds along the western South Atlantic, with green turtles 
documented as the most common species stranded throughout the coast of 
Brazil (Marcovaldi et al., 2009); Lima et al., 2010; Barata et al., 
2011; L[oacute]pez-Barrera et al., 2012). Similarly, artisanal gill net 
fisheries in the coastal waters of the Rio de la Plata area of Uruguay 
were estimated to have captured 1,861 green turtles over the 13-month 
duration of a study, despite a time-area closure during the ``peak'' 
season identified in Lezama (2009).
    Incidental captures of juvenile green turtles have also been 
documented on important foraging grounds off Argentina, especially 
Samboromb[oacute]n Bay and El Rinc[oacute]n, primarily from gill nets 
used by the artisanal fisheries, but also from shrimp nets and other 
artisanal fishing gear (Gonz[aacute]lez Carman et al., 2011). Green 
turtles utilizing foraging grounds off Argentina have been demonstrated 
to be primarily from the Ascension Islands nesting beaches, although 
individuals from Trindade Island, Suriname, and Aves Island nesting 
assemblages were also utilizing the Argentine foraging grounds 
(Prosdocimi et al., 2012). Therefore impacts to green turtles off 
Argentina affect a variety of nesting assemblages within the western 
and central South Atlantic.
    A variety of countries operate industrial trawling off Guinea-
Bissau. The national government does not have any requirements for TED 
use in their waters. There is also extensive illegal fishing occurring 
(Catry et al., 2009). While the Bolama-Bijag[oacute]s Biosphere Reserve 
covers the entire archipelago and provides some protection through the 
management of the reserve and the survey work patrolling the areas, 
limited enforcement and resource shortages limit the effectiveness of 
the reserve.
    In Ghana and the Ivory Coast, fish stocks have been reduced through 
overfishing and environmental degradation, and many fishers that 
incidentally catch sea turtles will keep and kill the turtle to feed 
their families (Tanner, 2013). Since 2001, a push has been made to 
generate alternative sources of income for the local populations of the 
Ivory Coast and to employ ex-poachers to patrol the beaches 
(Pe[ntilde]ate et al., 2007).
b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    Various studies have shown high prevalence of marine debris 
ingestion by green turtles in the western South Atlantic, in some cases 
occurring in 100 percent of the individuals examined (Bugoni et al., 
2001; Tourinho et al., 2010; Guebert-Bartholo et al., 2011; Murman, 
2011).
    Oil exploration and extraction within the Gulf of Guinea rapidly 
increased since the discovery of oil reserves in the 1980s and 1990s 
(Formia et al., 2003), with the associated activities and potential for 
oil spills and other pollution creating a threat to the important 
foraging areas and nesting beaches for green turtles in the area.
c. Effects of Climate Change
    As in other areas of the world, climate change and sea level rise 
have the potential to affect green turtles in the South Atlantic. 
Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased sea 
surface temperature, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics of 
beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the 
reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 
2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, 
which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. In 
very low-lying islands such as Aves, rising sea levels and increased 
storms could potentially eliminate its functionality as a nesting 
beach. Some beaches will likely experience lethal incubation 
temperatures that will result in losses of complete hatchling cohorts 
(Fuentes et al., 2010; Fuentes et al., 2011; Glen and Mrosovsky, 2004). 
While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that bycatch that occurs 
throughout the South Atlantic, particularly bycatch mortality of green 
turtles from nearshore gill net fisheries, continues to be a 
significant threat to this DPS. In addition, changes likely to result 
from climate change are also an increasing threat to this DPS and 
likely a significant threat to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the South Atlantic DPS

    The main in-water threat to green turtles in the South Atlantic DPS 
is incidental capture in fisheries, although marine debris and 
pollution are also threats. The main threat on beaches is habitat 
destruction, followed by hatchling predation. Most South Atlantic 
countries, including those in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa, 
have developed national legislation and have various projects sponsored 
by governments, local communities, academic institutions, and non-
governmental organizations to protect sea turtles, and nesting and 
foraging habitats to varying degrees (Dow et al., 2007; Formia et al., 
2003). The consistency and effectiveness of such programs likely vary 
greatly across countries and over time based on resource availability 
and political stability. In addition, some countries have site specific 
legislation or conservation designation for turtle habitat protection. 
When assessing conservation efforts, we assumed that all conservation 
efforts would remain in place at their current levels.
    Conservation through education is a widely-used and valuable tool 
throughout nations within the range of the South Atlantic DPS and 
around the world. Such education initiatives can be highly successful. 
In Akassa, Nigeria, a dedicated, intensive conservation education 
program by the Akassa Community Development Project resulted in sea 
turtles being recognized locally as an essential part of the area's 
natural heritage. This has resulted in the majority of the nests in 
Akassa being protected, and when live stranded turtles are found, they 
are released (Formia et al., 2003). However, in areas where the 
utilization of sea turtles is deeply ingrained in the local culture, 
such as the La Guajira region of

[[Page 15300]]

Colombia (Patino-Martinez et al., 2012), changing people's attitudes 
about the use of sea turtles can be a long, slow process.
    In the Caribbean, green turtle conservation on the nesting beach 
varies widely among the 22 nations and territories. However, programs 
at the three largest nesting sites--Aves Island, French Guiana, and 
Suriname--with over 500 crawls per year (Dow et al., 2007), provide 
protection to a significant proportion of nesting in the area.
    In South America, outside of the Caribbean, Brazil is the only 
nation with substantial green turtle nesting. In Brazil, the primary 
nesting areas are monitored by Projeto TAMAR, the national sea turtle 
conservation program, and many detrimental human activities are 
restricted by various state and Federal laws (Marcovaldi and dei 
Marcovaldi, 1999; Marcovaldi et al., 2002; 2005). Nevertheless, tourism 
development in coastal areas in Brazil is high, and Projeto TAMAR works 
toward raising awareness of turtles and their conservation needs 
through educational and informational activities at their Visitor 
Centers that are dispersed throughout the nesting areas (Marcovaldi et 
al., 2005; Marcovaldi 2011). Since 1990, TAMAR has worked along green 
turtle foraging areas such as Almofala and Ubatuba (Marcovaldi et al., 
2002).
    The South Atlantic Association is a multinational group that 
includes representatives from Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina that meets 
bi-annually to share information and develop regional action plans to 
address threats, including bycatch. In 2001, the Brazilian Plan for 
Reduction of Incidental Sea Turtle Capture in Fisheries was created to 
address incidental capture of the five species in the country 
(Marcovaldi et al., 2002, 2006). This national plan includes various 
activities to mitigate bycatch, including time-area restrictions of 
fisheries, use of bycatch reduction devices, and working with fishers 
to successfully release live-captured turtles. In Uruguay, all sea 
turtles are protected from human impacts, including fisheries bycatch, 
by presidential decree (Decreto Presidencial 144/98). The Karumbe 
conservation project in Uruguay has been working on assessing in-water 
threats to marine turtles for several years (see http://cicmar.org/proyectos/promacoda), with the objective of developing mitigation plans 
in the future. In Argentina, various conservation organizations are 
working toward assessing bycatch of green turtles and other sea turtle 
species in fisheries, with the objective of developing mitigation plans 
for this threat (http://www.prictma.com.ar).
    Green turtle nesting occurs on many beaches along the western coast 
of Africa, and there have been, and continue to be, sea turtle projects 
in many of the nations in the area ranging from research to public 
awareness to government conservation efforts (see Formia et al., 2003 
for a regional synopsis). The largest nesting assemblages occur on 
Poil[atilde]o, Bijag[oacute]s Archipelago, Guinea Bissau, and on Bioko 
Island, Equatorial Guinea. While conservation efforts on the beaches 
have been established, issues with enforcement capabilities and 
resources make consistent protection problematic (Catry et al., 2009; 
Formia et al., 2003; Tom[aacute]s et al., 2010). Since 2001, a push has 
been made to generate alternative sources of income for the local 
populations of the Ivory Coast and to employ ex-poachers to patrol the 
beaches (Pe[ntilde]ate et al., 2007).
    Green turtle conservation efforts on Ascension Island have involved 
extensive monitoring, outreach, and research. The group Turtles in the 
UK Overseas Territories promotes the conservation, research, and 
management of marine turtle populations and their habitats, and has 
worked extensively on Ascension Island (http://www.seaturtle.org/mtrg/projects/tukot/ascension.shtml). Additionally, there are legal 
prohibitions protecting sea turtles on Ascension.
    Overall, conservation efforts for green turtles in the South 
Atlantic DPS are inconsistent. While there are numerous and varied 
conservation efforts, especially on the primary nesting beaches, many 
issues remain due to limited enforcement of existing laws and marine 
protected areas as well as extensive fishery bycatch, especially in 
coastal waters. The effectiveness and consistency of conservation 
measures will need to be increased substantially to prevent the further 
decline, and allow the recovery, of this DPS in the future.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the South Atlantic DPS

    Nesting abundance for this DPS is relatively high, with large 
rookeries spread out geographically, the two largest at Poil[atilde]o, 
Guinea-Bissau, and Ascension Island, UK. Population trends within 
rookeries are inconsistent and, in many cases, the data are limited and 
a trend could not be determined, even for major rookeries. While some 
nesting beaches such as Ascension Island, Aves Island, and Galibi 
appear to be increasing, others such as Poil[atilde]o, Trindade, and 
Atol das Rocas seem to be stable or do not have sufficient data to make 
a determination. Bioko, Equatorial Guinea, appears to be in decline. 
The diversity/resilience of the DPS is bolstered by the widespread 
nature of the rookeries, but a potential concern is the domination of 
the DPS by insular nesting sites, which has the potential to reduce the 
resilience of the DPS in the face of sea level rise and increasing 
tropical storm activity.
    The 5-factor analysis in the Status Review revealed numerous 
continuing threats to green turtles within the South Atlantic DPS. 
Habitat destruction and degradation both at nesting beaches and 
important foraging grounds is a continuing concern, though inconsistent 
across the DPS. Overutilization (harvest) of green turtles within the 
South Atlantic was likely a primary factor in past declines. While 
reduced from those levels due to increased legal protections, harvest 
is still thought to be fairly extensive in some areas of western 
Africa. Fishery bycatch also continues to be a major concern throughout 
the range of the DPS, near nesting beaches and foraging areas as well 
as on the high seas. Despite increasing legal protections for sea 
turtles within the DPS, the inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms is a noted issue. While many international and national laws 
purporting to protect sea turtles exist, limitations in resources and 
political will create a situation of inconsistent or sometimes 
nonexistent practical measures to enforce those laws. Increasing 
awareness and conservation efforts by governments, local communities, 
non-governmental organizations, and industries have helped to reduce 
threats, but efforts remain inconsistent and often resource limited.
    While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in 
many of the critical population parameters, there are still concerns 
about the impacts of ongoing threats. The increasing threats are not 
reflected in the current trend for the South Atlantic DPS as it was 
based on nesting numbers and not all current life stages. These 
increasing threats to the population will only become apparent when 
those life stages affected by the threats return to nest and the 
beaches are consistently monitored, as the trend information is based 
solely on numbers of nests. This lag time and nesting data were 
considered in our analysis.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the South Atlantic DPS as 
threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of high nesting abundance and

[[Page 15301]]

geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the 
continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable 
future.

X. Southwest Indian DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Southwest Indian DPS

    The range of the Southwest Indian DPS has as its western boundary 
the shores of continental Africa from the equator, just north of the 
Kenya-Somalia border, south to the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), 
and extends south from there along 19[deg] E. longitude to 40[deg] S., 
19[deg] E. Its southern boundary extends along 40[deg] S. latitude from 
19[deg] E. to 84[deg] E., and its eastern boundary runs along 84[deg] 
E. longitude from 40[deg] S. latitude to the equator. Its northern 
boundary extends along the equator from 84[deg] E. to the continent of 
Africa just north of the Kenya-Somalia border (Figure 2). Nesting 
occurs along the east coast of Africa as far south as 25[deg] S., the 
north, west, and south coasts of Madagascar, and scattered offshore 
islands in the southwest Indian Ocean (Figure 8.1 in the Status 
Review). Foraging occurs along the east coast of Africa, around 
Madagascar where numerous seagrass beds are found, and on shallow banks 
and shoals throughout the region, including those associated with 
virtually every island in Seychelles (Mortimer, 1984; Mortimer et al., 
1996). Small and immature turtles are also concentrated in Mozambique 
around Bazaruto and Inhassoro and in Maputo Bay (Bourjea, 2012). Along 
the coast of Kenya, an aerial survey in 1994 indicated that sea turtles 
are widely distributed within the 20-m isobaths mainly within seagrass 
beds and coral reefs (Frazier, 1975; Wamukoya et al., 1996; Okemwa et 
al., 2004). The eastern seaboard of South Africa serves as a feeding 
and developmental area for green turtles (Bourjea, 2012).
    For the DPS, there are 14 nesting sites with some measure of 
abundance, four of which have more than 10,000 nesting females: Europa 
(Eparses Islands, France; 25,500; Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 
2012), Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles; 16,000 (Mortimer et al., 2011; 
Mortimer, 2012; J. Mortimer unpubl. data)), Moh[eacute]li (Comoros; 
15,000 (Bourjea, 2012), and Mayotte (France; 12,000; Bourjea et al., 
2007a; Bourjea, 2012). Les Glorieuses has 5,001-10,000 nesting females 
(6,000; Lauret-Stepler et al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012). Five sites have 
1,001-5,000 nesting females: Tromelin Island; 4,500 (Lauret-Stepler et 
al., 2007; Bourjea, 2012); Kenya; 1,500 (Okemwa et al., 2004); 
Tanzania; 1,500 (Muir, 2005; Bourjea, 2012); Mauritius; 1,800 (Bourjea, 
2012); and Assumption, Cosmoledo, Astove, and Farquhar in the 
Seychelles; ~2,000 (J. Mortimer unpubl. data). There are four sites 
with <500 nesting females: Madagascar; Mozambique; Amirantes Group, 
Seychelles; and Inner Islands of the Seychelles; and 23 more sites with 
unquantified numbers of nesting females. The largest nesting site, 
Europa, accounts for approximately 30 percent of all nesting.
    Green turtles in the Southwest Indian Ocean were exploited for many 
decades (Hughes, 1974; Frazier, 1980, 1982; Mortimer et al., 2011); 
however, the species has successfully recovered at some nesting beaches 
in the recent years and trend data show increasing trends, albeit 
largely at protected sites (Bourjea, 2012). At protected nesting sites 
with long-term monitoring, five out of six monitoring sites have shown 
increase in nesting activities (Europa, Glorieuses, Mayotte, 
Moh[eacute]li, and Aldabra), whereas a declining trend has been 
reported for Tromelin Island (Bourjea, 2012). There are three nesting 
sites with greater than 10 years of recent monitoring data: Les 
Glorieuses, Europa and Tromelin, Eparses Islands, the trends of which 
are discussed above. No sites met our standards for conducting a PVA.
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Southwest 
Indian DPS has been fairly extensive and nesting sites are relatively 
well represented, with the exception of the northern nesting sites. 
Mitochondrial DNA studies indicate a moderate degree of spatial 
structuring within this DPS, with connectivity between proximate 
nesting sites (see below). Overall, the Southwest Indian DPS appears to 
have at least two genetic stocks: (1) The South Mozambique Channel 
consisting of Juan de Nova and Europa; and (2) the numerous nesting 
sites in the North Mozambique Channel consisting of Nosy Iranja, 
Mayotte, Moh[eacute]li, Glorieuses, Cosmoledo, Aldabra, Farquhar, also 
including Tromelin located east of Madagascar (Bourjea et al., 2006). 
Satellite telemetry data are available for green turtles that nest at 
some nesting beaches within the range of this DPS. Green turtles 
nesting along the East African coast confine their migration to along 
the coast. This is in contrast to those nesting on islands (e.g., 
Comoros, Eparses, and Seychelles), which reach the East African or 
Malagasy coast via `migration corridors' or along mid-oceanic seagrass 
beds. This behavior is believed to be mainly attributable to the fact 
that those areas are characterized by a network of large seagrass beds 
(Bourjea, 2012).
    With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting in the Southwest 
Indian DPS occurs throughout the range of this DPS on islands, atolls, 
and on the main continent of Africa in Kenya. The nesting substrate can 
be variable as some of the nesting beaches are volcanic islands and the 
atolls are made of coralline sand. Nesting occurs throughout the year 
with peaks that vary among nesting sites (Dalleau et al., 2012; 
Mortimer, 2012). The fact that turtles nest on both insular and 
continental sites, in variable substrates and at different peak seasons 
suggests a high degree of nesting diversity and indicates some 
resiliency.
    The genetic structure of this DPS is characterized by high 
diversity and a mix of unique and rare haplotypes, as well as common 
and widespread haplotypes. These common and widespread haplotypes (CM-
A8, CmP47 and CmP49) make up the majority of the haplotypes present in 
the Southwest Indian DPS and appear to be ancestral haplotypes (based 
on presence in the South Atlantic and Southwest Pacific DPSs). The 
Southwest Indian Ocean represents a genetic hotspot with 0.3 to 6.5 
percent (mean = 4.2 percent) estimated sequence divergence among the 
seven haplotypes identified. These haplotypes belong to three highly 
diverged genetic clades of haplotypes and highlights the complex 
colonization history of the region. There have been no nDNA studies 
from this region, nor are there studies published on genetic stock 
composition at foraging areas within the range of the Southwest Indian 
DPS.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Indian DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    Habitat degradation is reported as an important source of 
additional mortality for this DPS, although the exact scale of habitat 
destruction at nesting beaches often is undocumented (Bourjea, 2012). 
In particular, habitat destruction due to development of the coastline 
and dredging or land-fill in foraging areas is a threat to green 
turtles throughout the Seychelles (Mortimer et al., 1996). Increases in 
tourism and human population growth on Mayotte Island may lead to 
further negative impacts upon this coastal environment (Bourjea et al., 
2007). The possible negative effects of artificial lighting at a main 
nesting beach on Aldabra are of concern at the Seychelles (Mortimer et 
al., 2011), although it is currently being addressed

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(J. Mortimer, Seychelles Dept. of Environment, pers. comm., 2014).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    In Moh[eacute]li, Comoros Islands, habitat degradation due to 
sedimentation, sand extraction, and coral reef/seagrass bed degradation 
is also a concern (Ahamada, 2008). Similar situations are reported for 
Tanzania (Bourjea, 2012) and Madagascar (Ciccione et al., 2002; 
Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994 as cited in Bourjea, 2012).
    For both the terrestrial and the neritic/oceanic zones, we believe 
that sufficient data are not available to assess the significance of 
these threats to the persistence of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles 
throughout the Southwest Indian DPS for human consumption persists as a 
threat to this DPS. Egg poaching has been reported for Comoros Islands 
(Ahamada, 2008; Bourjea, 2012); Mozambique (Costa et al., 2007; Videira 
et al., 2008); Tanzania (Bourjea, 2012); Madagascar (Rakotonirina and 
Cooke, 1994; Ciccione et al. 2002 as cited in Bourjea, 2012; Lilette, 
2006 as cited in Bourjea, 2012); and Kenya (Bourjea, 2012). Egg 
exploitation has affected green turtle populations in the Maldives 
(Seminoff et al., 2004). Illegal egg collection in Mauritius seems to 
be an important source of mortality but no data are available.
    Nesting green turtle numbers in the Seychelles have increased at 
protected sites, but declined where there has been heavy poaching, as 
on the developed islands of Mah[eacute], Praslin, and La Digue 
(Bourjea, 2012). On Assumption Island and Aldabra, the number of 
nesting females was known to have decreased due to overharvesting 
(Mortimer, 1984), but they have been protected at Aldabra since 1968 
(J. Mortimer, pers. comm., Seychelles Dept. of Environment, 2014).
    Areas of particularly heavy exploitation of green turtles include 
foraging locations in the Western Indian Ocean such as Madagascar 
(Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Mbindo, 1996; Bourjea, 2012). Artisanal 
fisheries, such as beach seines and gill nets, have been reported to 
take tens of thousands of turtles annually (Hughes, 1981; Rakotonirina, 
1987; Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Lilette, 2006; Humber et al., 
2010). This exploitation affects turtles nesting in the Eparses 
Islands, where poaching and illegal trade at international foraging 
grounds are also a threat (Rakotonirina and Cooke, 1994; Lauret-Stepler 
et al., 2007). Similarly, commercial and small-scale fisheries at 
foraging grounds along the east African coast, mainly Tanzania and 
Kenya, affect green turtles nesting on Mayotte, Comoros Islands 
(Bourjea et al., 2007). Intentional capture of green turtles continues 
in the Seychelles (Seminoff et al., 2004) and in the east coast of 
Africa (Baldwin et al., 2003; Louro et al., 2006).
    In summary, current legal and illegal collection of eggs and 
harvest of turtles persists as a threat throughout this DPS. The 
killing of nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green 
turtle populations in many areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult 
abundance and egg production.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    The prevalence of FP in the Southwest Indian DPS is not known. FP 
is extremely rare among green turtles in Seychelles (J.A. Mortimer, 
unpublished data). Side striped jackals (Canis adustus) and honey 
badgers (Melivora capensis) are known to depredate nests on the 
mainland coast of East Africa (Baldwin et al., 2003).
    However, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess the degree 
of impact of these threats on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There are at least 15 national and international treaties and/or 
regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the Southwest Indian DPS. The 
analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would 
remain in place at their current levels; however, some are not 
realizing their full potential because they are not adequately 
enforced.
    Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green 
turtles are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the 
DPS with some countries having no commitment to the implementation of 
the regulation. Existing regulatory mechanisms to address bycatch and 
coastal development are not implemented adequately as evident by the 
high level of bycatch within this DPS.
    In addition to broad-reaching international instruments, the 
following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Mozambique, 
Republic of Seychelles, Comoros Islands, Mayotte Island, and the French 
Eparses Islands. However, these regulatory mechanisms are not range-
wide and do not address the loss of the nesting beach, overutilization, 
and bycatch that are significant threats to this DPS. The Status Review 
revealed a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to address sea level 
rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the 
extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Quantifying the magnitude of the threat of fisheries on green 
turtles in the Southwest Indian DPS is very difficult given the low 
level of observer coverage and dearth of investigations into bycatch 
conducted by countries that have large fishing fleets. Sea turtles are 
caught in demersal and pelagic longlines, trawls, gill nets, and seines 
(Peterson, 2005; Louro et al., 2006; Costa et al., 2007; Fennessy and 
Isaksen, 2007; Peterson et al., 2007; 2009). Bycatch is a concern along 
the east coast of Africa and in many island Exclusive Economic Zones 
(EEZs), including the Seychelles, Mayotte, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, 
and South Africa. (Mortimer et al., 1996; Bourjea et al., 2007a; 
Bourjea, 2012).
b. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased 
sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand 
characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could 
result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production 
(Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise 
in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting 
habitat. In the Southwest Indian DPS, climate change could have 
profound long-term impacts on nesting populations because much of the 
nesting occurs in low-lying islands and atolls. The pending sea level 
rise from climate change is a potential problem, as this will inundate 
nesting sites and decrease available nesting habitat (Daniels et al., 
1993). While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that 
occurs throughout the range of the DPS, particularly bycatch of green 
turtles from long lining operations, small

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prawn trawl fishery, and coastal gill nets, can affect juvenile to 
adult size turtles. In addition, climate change and natural disasters 
are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Indian DPS

    Nine countries of the southwest Indian Ocean developed and signed 
the Indian Ocean Southeast Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of 
Understanding (IOSEA; www.ioseaturtles.org): Comoros in June 2001, 
United Republic of Tanzania in June 2001, Kenya in May 2002, Mauritius 
in July 2002, Madagascar in January 2003, Seychelles in January 2003, 
South Africa in February 2005; and Mozambique and France (Indian Ocean) 
in December 2008. IOSEA aims to develop and assist countries of the 
region in the implementation of the IOSEA regional strategy for 
management and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. 
Accordingly, IOSEA has been successfully coordinating and closely 
monitoring region-wide conservation efforts in the Indian Ocean for 
years. This has included the development of a state-of-the-art online 
reporting facility, satellite tracking, genetic regional database, 
flipper tag inventory, and a global bibliographic resource.
    Also within the Southwest Indian DPS, the Western Indian Ocean-
Marine Turtle Task Force plays a role in sea turtle conservation. This 
is a technical, non-political working group comprised of specialists 
from eleven countries: Comoros, France (La R[eacute]union), Kenya, 
Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, 
United Kingdom and Tanzania, as well as representatives from 
intergovernmental organizations, academic, and non-governmental 
organizations within the region.
    The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is playing an increasingly 
constructive role in turtle conservation. In 2005, the IOTC adopted 
Resolution 05/08, superseded by Resolution 09/06 on Sea Turtles, which 
sets out reporting requirements on interactions with sea turtles and 
accordingly provides an executive summary per species for adoption at 
the Working Party on Ecosystem and By-catch and then subsequently at 
the Scientific Committee. In 2011, IOTC developed a ``Sea Turtle 
Identification Card'' to be distributed to all long-liners operating in 
the Indian Ocean (http://www.iotc.org/).
    Although there is considerable uncertainty in anthropogenic 
mortalities, especially in the water, the DPS may have benefitted from 
conservation efforts at the nesting beaches.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Indian DPS

    The Southwest Indian DPS is characterized by relatively high levels 
of green turtle nesting abundance and increasing trends. The overall 
nesting range for the Southwest Indian DPS occurs throughout the range 
of this DPS on islands, atolls, and on the main continent of Africa in 
Kenya. The fact that turtles nest on both insular and continental 
sites, and nesting substrate can be variable as some of the nesting 
beaches are volcanic islands and the atolls are made of coralline sand, 
suggests a high degree of nesting diversity. Nesting also occurs 
throughout the year with peaks that vary among rookeries (Dalleau et 
al., 2012; Mortimer, 2012). The genetic structure of this DPS is 
characterized by high diversity and a mix of unique and rare 
haplotypes, as well as common and widespread haplotypes. However, the 
five-factor analysis in the Status Review revealed continuing threats 
to green turtles and their habitat within the range of the DPS.
    Nesting beaches throughout the range of this DPS are susceptible to 
coastal development and associated beachfront lighting, erosion, and 
sea level rise. Coral reef and seagrass bed degradation continues in 
portions of the range of the DPS affecting foraging turtles. Direct 
capture of juvenile and adult turtles continues to take place using a 
variety of gear types in artisanal and industrial fisheries.
    The Southwest Indian DPS is protected by various international 
treaties and agreements as well as a few national laws, and there are 
protected beaches throughout the range of this DPS. As a result of 
these designations and agreements, many of the intentional impacts 
directed at sea turtles have been lessened, such as the harvest of eggs 
and adults in several nesting areas, although the extent to which they 
are reduced is not clear.
    While the Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in 
many of the critical population parameters, there are still concerns 
about threats to the DPS from fisheries interactions, direct harvest 
(eggs and adults), and climate change.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Southwest Indian DPS 
as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of the high nesting abundance and geographically 
widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the continued 
threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future.

XI. North Indian DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the North Indian DPS

    The range of the North Indian DPS begins at the border of Somalia 
and Kenya north into the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and east 
to the Gulf of Mannar off the southern tip of India and includes a 
major portion of India's southeastern coast up to Andra Pradesh. The 
southern and eastern boundaries are the equator (0[deg]) and 84[deg] 
E., respectively, which intersect in the southeast corner of the range 
of the DPS. It is bordered by the following countries (following the 
water bodies from west to east): Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, 
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, 
Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka 
(Figure 2).
    Nesting is concentrated primarily in the northern and western 
region of the range of the North Indian DPS from the Arabian Peninsula 
to the Pakistani-Indian border, with smaller but significant nesting 
colonies occurring in Sri Lanka, India's Lakshadweep Island group, and 
the Red Sea. Nesting in the Arabian Gulf occurs in low numbers.
    Seagrass beds are extensive within the range of the DPS, although a 
comprehensive understanding of juvenile and adult foraging areas is 
lacking. There are extensive foraging areas in the Arabian Gulf, on the 
coasts of Oman and Yemen, Gulf of Aden, and in the Red Sea (Ross and 
Barwani, 1982; Salm, 1991; Salm and Salm, 2001). Barr al Hickman, along 
the Sahil al Jazit coastline in Oman, is one of the most important 
known foraging grounds for green turtles. Although development of dense 
seagrass beds is limited seasonally due to monsoons, the Arabian Sea 
coast's foraging areas are extensive (Jupp et al., 1996 as cited in 
Ferreira et al., 2006). Juvenile green turtles have been sighted and 
captured year-round in the lagoons in Agatti and Kavaratti. These 
Lakshadweep lagoons are known to be important developmental habitat for 
green turtles in this DPS (Tripathy et al., 2002; Tripathy et al., 
2006).
    Thirty-eight total nesting sites were identified by the SRT, some 
being individual beaches and others representing multiple nesting 
beaches, although nesting data is more than a decade old for the vast 
majority of these sites. Nonetheless, our best estimates indicate that, 
of the 38 sites, two have >10,000 nesting females (Ras Sharma,

[[Page 15304]]

Yemen; 18,000 (PERSGA/GEF, 2004) and Ras Al Hadd, Oman; 16,184 (Ross, 
1979; AlKindi et al., 2008)); one has 5,001-10,000 nesting females 
(Kamgar Beach at Ormara, Pakistan; 6,000 (Groombridge et al., 1988)); 
five have 1,001-5,000 nesting females (Saudi Arabian Gulf Islands; 
2,410 (Al-Merghani et al., 2000; Pilcher, 2000); north coast of Ras Al 
Hadd, Oman; 1,875 (Salm et al., 1993); Ra's Jifan to Ra's Jibsh, Oman; 
1,500 (Ross, 1979; AlKindi et al., 2008); Masirah Island, Oman; 1,125 
(Grobler et al., 2001); and Gujarat, India; 1,125 (Sunderraj et al., 
2006a, 2006b; K. Shanker pers. comm., 2013); 15 sites have 101-500 
nesting females; 10 have fewer than 50; and one is unquantified. The 
largest site, Ras Sharma in Yemen, accounts for 33 percent of the 
nesting females. Daran Beach, Jiwani, Pakistan, with an estimated 371 
nesting females (Waqas et al., 2011), and Zabargard Island, Egypt, with 
an estimated 444 nesting females (Hanafy, 2012; El-Sadek et al., 2013), 
are the only sites for which 10 or more years of recent data are 
available for annual nesting female abundance (the standards for 
representing trends in bar plot in this report). It is difficult to 
ascertain any trend from these data. No sites met the standards for 
PVA. However, some other sites were examined, with caveats, as follows.
    Nesting at Ras Al Hadd appears to have increased from approximately 
6,000 females nesting each year for the period 1977 to 1979 (Ross and 
Barwani, 1982) through the late 1980s (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989), 
to the estimate of 16,184 nesting females, as calculated from 21,578 
nests found in 2007 (AlKindi et al., 2008). Declines are evident at 
Hawkes Bay and Sandspit, Pakistan, where a mean of approximately 1,300 
nests were deposited annually from 1981 to 1985 (Groombridge and 
Luxmoore, 1989) and a mean of approximately 600 nests were laid from 
1994 to 1997 (Asrar, 1999). At Gujarat, India, 866 nests were deposited 
in 1981 (Bhaskar, 1984) and 461 nests in 2000 (Sunderraj et al., 2006); 
however, because there are only two data points, it is not possible to 
determine a trend. At Ras Sharma, counts of nightly nesting females 
during peak nesting season in 1966 and 1972 (30-40 females; Hirth, 
1968; Hirth and Hollingsworth, 1973) versus the same index during the 
peak of the 1999 nesting season (15 females; Saad, 1999) are suggestive 
of a decline. Again the lack of multiple-year data sets for both 
Gujarat and Ras Sharma preclude trend assessment.
    With regard to spatial structure, only one stock from this DPS (in 
Saudi Arabia) has been characterized genetically based on limited 
sampling; however, it was found to be very distinct from other nesting 
sites elsewhere in the Indian Ocean based on mtDNA analysis. There are 
no studies of foraging grounds within the range of the North Indian DPS 
to provide information on the distribution or the mixing of turtles 
outside of this DPS. A few flipper tag recoveries have been reported 
with no reported recoveries outside of the range of the North Indian 
DPS. Adult females from Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Oman were satellite 
tagged and tracked during post-nesting migrations, and all remained 
within the range of the North Indian DPS. The satellite telemetry data 
for nesting females in Sri Lanka provided some information on possible 
foraging locations which were within the inshore waters of southern Sri 
Lanka and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, although sample size 
was limited (Richardson et al., 2013). Satellite telemetry for nesting 
females in Kuwait verified nesting in Qaru Island. These turtles 
migrated to the shallow seas in Saudi Arabia (Rees et al., 2013).
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the demography of green 
turtles in the North Indian DPS appears to vary among nesting 
assemblages, suggesting a complex population structuring in the North 
Indian DPS. The population is moderately dispersed within the range of 
the North Indian DPS, although the greatest nesting is concentrated in 
the northern and western region of the DPS's range, with about 72 
percent of the nesting concentrated in Oman and Yemen. The nesting 
season varies widely within the range of the DPS. The peak nesting 
season in Ras Sharma, Yemen is July, in Gujarat, India, it is from 
August to March (Sunderraj et al., 2006), and in Oman, nesting occurs 
year-round.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the North Indian DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    One of the largest green turtle nesting populations within this DPS 
is concentrated on the nesting beaches of Ras Al Hadd, Oman (Ross, 
1979). Ras Al Hadd, Ras al Jinz, and the numerous smaller nesting 
beaches south of it are protected from development as part of the Ras 
Al Hadd Nature Reserve. However, upland light pollution is negatively 
impacting these otherwise suitable nesting habitats (E. Possardt, 
USFWS, pers. comm., 2013). The most important green turtle nesting 
beaches in Yemen fall within the Ras Sharma Protected Area, and this 
nesting habitat is secure from beach development threats.
    Light pollution is increasing near the Karan Island, Saudi Arabia 
site from oil rig developments, but the impact on hatchlings and 
nesting females is unknown (J. Miller, Biological Research and 
Education Consultants, pers. comm., 2013). At Ras Baridi, one of the 
main nesting beaches in Saudi Arabia, uncontrolled particulate 
emissions from a large cement factory has coated the beaches at times 
and poses a threat to hatchlings because they are unable to emerge from 
the nest due to the hardened sand (PERSGA/GEF, 2004; Pilcher, 1999).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Trawling occurs throughout much of the range of the North Indian 
DPS and has the potential to destroy bottom habitat in these areas. 
Marine pollution, including direct contamination and structural habitat 
degradation, affects green turtle neritic and oceanic habitat. The most 
dramatic example of the threats to sea turtles and their habitat from 
oil pollution in the region is the Gulf War oil spill in the Arabian 
Gulf in 1991, which is estimated to be the largest oil spill in history 
at the time of the 2010 report (ABC, 2010).
    In the Arabian Gulf, extensive seagrass beds provide important 
foraging sites for green turtles within waters of Bahrain, United Arab 
Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, but these are being degraded and 
lost from the continual threat of dredging, siltation, and land 
reclamation (Pilcher, 2000, 2006; Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005; Abdulqader, 
2008; Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008).
    In the waters surrounding the Lakshadweep islands in India, there 
exist high densities of green turtles that, without the natural level 
of control from the top predators such as tiger sharks, can cause an 
increase in grazing pressure and reduce the amount of healthy seagrass 
beds available (Kelkar et al., 2013).
    In summary, we find that the North Indian DPS of the green turtle 
is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its terrestrial and 
marine habitats as a result of land and water use practices. Beach and 
marine pollution are an increasing threat to this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Directed take of eggs and turtles by humans occurs at the primary 
green

[[Page 15305]]

turtle nesting beaches and in waters off of Saudi Arabia (Al-Merghani 
et al., 1996; Pilcher, 2000), Yemen (K. Nasher, Sana'a University, 
pers. comm., 2013), Oman (R. Baldwin, Five Oceans LLC, pers. comm., 
2013), Djibouti and Somalia (PERSGA 2001; van de Elst, 2006; Galair, 
2009; van de Giessen, 2011; Witsen, 2012), Eritrea (Howe et al., 2004; 
Pilcher, 2006; Teclemariam et al., 2009), the Islamic Republic of Iran 
(Mobaraki, 2004; 2007; 2011), India (Sunderraj et al., 2006), and Sri 
Lanka (Rajakaruna et al., 2009; Turtle Conservation Project, 2009). 
Directed take of nesting females is also still common at nesting 
beaches in Yemen (K. Nasher, Sana'a University, pers. comm., 2013). In 
spite of wildlife protection laws, green turtles are still killed 
opportunistically for food in Oman (R. Baldwin, Five Oceans LLC, pers. 
comm., 2013).
    Illegal and legal capture of sea turtles and the collection of 
turtle eggs is fairly widespread in the Djibouti and Somalia region of 
the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, and turtle meat, oil and eggs are an 
important source of subsidiary food for artisanal fishers (PERSGA, 
2001; van de Elst, 2006; Galair, 2009; van de Giessen, 2011; Witsen, 
2012). Harvesting of sea turtle eggs and meat for consumption by local 
communities and fishers occurs at a subsistence level in Eritrea (Howe 
et al., 2004; Pilcher, 2006; Teclemariam et al., 2009); however, the 
pressure on green turtle populations is reported to be high because 
they are prized for their meat products (Teclemariam et al., 2009). Egg 
harvesting has also been reported as a threat impacting green turtles 
in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with eggs being used for both 
consumption (in some cases as an aphrodisiac) and for use in 
traditional medicines (Mobaraki, 2004; 2007; 2011).
    In spite of wildlife protection laws, green turtles are still 
killed opportunistically for trade in the Bay of Mannar between India 
and Sri Lanka (Bhupathy and Saravanan, 2006). In India, green turtle 
export was banned in the 1980s; however, subsistence harvesting 
continues (Bhupathy and Saravanan, 2006). An increase in the number of 
green turtles killed by fishers has been reported in Agatti Island, 
Lakshadweep, India. The cause for the killing has been linked to 
increases in green turtles within the area. The perception is that 
green turtles damage fishing gear and overgraze seagrass thereby 
reducing catch levels (Arthur et al., 2013).
    In summary, current legal and illegal collection of eggs and 
harvest of turtles throughout the range of the North Indian DPS for 
human consumption persists as a threat to this DPS. The harvest of 
nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green turtle 
populations in many areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult abundance 
and egg production.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    The prevalence of FP in the North Indian DPS is not known. 
Predation of hatchlings and eggs by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes arabica) 
is common at the Ras al Jinz, Oman green turtle nesting beach 
(Mendon[ccedil]a et al., 2010), and depredation by feral dogs has been 
identified as a major threat at sea turtle nesting beaches in Pakistan 
(Asrar, 1999; Firdous, 2001) and the main green turtle nesting beach at 
Ras Sharma (Stanton, 2008). On two Egyptian Red Sea beaches (Ras 
Honkorab and Om Al-Abath beaches, which are both within Wadi Gimal 
National Park limits), predation is reported to be very high with only 
a few nests surviving (Mancini, 2012). The most common predators 
observed on these two beaches in Egypt were desert foxes (V. zerda) and 
dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), but ghost crabs were regularly observed 
near nests as well. In Qatar, depredation of eggs and hatchlings by 
foxes has been identified as a key source of turtle mortality (Al-
Muraikhi et al., 2005; Pilcher, 2006). Along the beaches of Gujarat in 
India, dogs, jackals, monitor lizards, crabs, crows, and possibly 
hyenas and feral pigs depredate nests and eat hatchings (Sunderraj et 
al., 2006).
    Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative 
data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats 
on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    There are several international treaties and/or regulatory 
mechanisms that pertain to the North Indian DPS, and nearly all 
countries lining the North Indian DPS have some level of national 
legislation directed at sea turtle protection. The following countries 
have laws to protect green turtles: Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, 
India, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, 
Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In 
addition, at least 14 international treaties and/or regulatory 
mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the North 
Indian DPS.
    Within the last decade, since the establishment of the Jeddah 
Convention (The Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea 
and Gulf of Aden Environment), there is more of an effort to strengthen 
participation in international and regional agreements (PERSGA, 2010). 
The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all 
would remain in place at their current levels. The overall 
effectiveness and enforcement of these laws varies among the countries 
and relies on each country's priorities. Often the enforcement of these 
laws is done in collaboration with non-governmental agencies such as 
HEPCA in the Red Sea (http://www.hepca.org/).
    Regulatory mechanisms that address the direct capture of green 
turtles are implemented to various degrees throughout the range of the 
DPS with some countries having no regulation in place. Our Status 
Review reported no widespread regulations for the gill net and trawl 
fisheries to address the threat of bycatch. The Status Review revealed 
a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms to address coastal 
development, sea level rise, and effects of climate change that 
continue to contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Sea turtle bycatch from gill nets, trawls, and longline fisheries 
is a significant cause of sea turtle mortality for the North Indian 
DPS, although there are fewer bycatch data than for other regions of 
the world (Wright and Mohanty, 2002; Project GloBAL, 2007; Bourjea et 
al., 2008; Abdulqader, 2010; Wallace et al., 2010). The magnitude of 
trawl, gill net, and longline fisheries within the range of the North 
Indian DPS is great with no substantive sea turtle protection measures 
in place to reduce sea turtle bycatch mortality. Along the coast of Ras 
Al Hadd, one of the densest nesting beaches of this DPS, fishery 
related mortality is particularly high where green turtles are 
incidentally caught in fishing gear (Salm, 1991).
i. Gill Net Fisheries
    Gill nets are widely deployed and used throughout the region and 
known to kill thousands of sea turtles in some regions (Project GloBAL, 
2007). Two member Indian Ocean Tuna Commission parties, Iran and Kenya, 
alone reported the use of 12,023 gill nets in the Indian Ocean in 2012. 
In Lakshadweep and Tamil Nadu, India, the most common net fisheries 
(i.e., gill net, shore seine, anchor net and drag nets) are known to 
incidentally catch green turtles (Tripathy et al., 2006; Bhupathy and 
Saravanan, 2006).

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    Incidental capture of sea turtles in fishing nets (presumably in 
gill nets or set nets) has been identified as the main cause of 
mortality of juvenile green turtles within Iranian and the United Arab 
Emirates foraging areas (Mobaraki, 2007; Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008). 
In Qatar, entrapment of turtles in fishing nets has been identified as 
a key source of mortality (Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005).
ii. Trawl Fisheries
    Shrimp trawling occurs in many countries throughout the range of 
the North Indian DPS including Pakistan, India, Bahrain, and Saudi 
Arabia. In Yemen, trawling is believed to be a significant threat to 
sea turtles, mainly hawksbill and greens; however, no data are 
available (Bourjea et al., 2008). Pakistan and India require the use of 
TEDs to meet the requirements of U.S. Public Law 101-162, section 609 
for exporting shrimp to the United States, but the level of compliance 
is unclear (E. Possardt, USFWS, pers. obs. 2013). Nowhere else within 
the range of the North Indian DPS are TEDs being used and it can be 
assumed that significant sea turtle bycatch occurs. One documented 
assessment of the impact of trawling on sea turtles in this region is 
from Bahrain where trawls were reported to capture over 300 sea turtles 
annually, mostly greens (Abdulqader and Miller, 2012; Abdulqader, 
2010).
b. Vessel Strikes
    Boat strikes have been identified as a major cause of sea turtle 
mortality in the United Arab Emirates (Al-Abdessalaam et al., 2008) and 
Qatar (Al-Muraikhi et al., 2005). Boat strikes of sea turtles also have 
been identified as a regular occurrence in Iran and seem to be 
increasing in some areas (Mobaraki, 2011). Boat strikes are undoubtedly 
a regular occurrence throughout the Arabian Gulf and other important 
green turtle foraging grounds within the range of the North Indian DPS 
and, cumulatively, are likely significant, but quantification is 
lacking.
c. Beach Driving
    Beach driving by fishers who haul and launch boats from Ras al Jinz 
beach in Oman is highly problematic, and hatchling turtles are likely 
being caught in ruts, struck or run over. However, no assessment has 
been conducted to determine the extent of impacts on nesting turtles 
and hatchlings (E. Possardt, USFWS, pers. comm., 2013).
d. Pollution
    Pollution has been identified as a main threat to sea turtles in 
Iran (Mobaraki, 2007) and Pakistan (Firdous, 2001); however, no 
specific information about the type of pollution was provided. In Sri 
Lanka, Kapurusinghe (Kapurusinghe, 2006) stated that polluted inland 
water flows into Beira Lake and subsequently the sea, and that garbage, 
including polythene and plastics, dumped on beaches in some areas is 
washed into the sea, where it can be lethal to sea turtles. In Gujarat, 
India, the increase in ports and shipping traffic results in problems 
from oil spills, garbage, and other pollutants such as fertilizers and 
cement (Surderraj et al., 2006).
e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Similar to other areas of the world, climate change and sea level 
rise have the potential to affect green turtles in the North Indian 
DPS. Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased 
sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand 
characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could 
result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production 
(Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise 
in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting 
habitat. In addition, cyclones such as those occurring in consecutive 
years in 1998 and 1999 in Kachchch, India, cause severe erosion of the 
nesting beach (Surderraj et al., 2006) and, when combined with the 
effects of sea level rise, may have increased cumulative impacts in the 
future. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    Within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch (longline, gill net, 
and trawl fishing) occurs throughout the range of the DPS and is a 
significant threat to this DPS. In addition, pollution, vessel strikes, 
climate change and natural disasters are expected to be an increasing 
threat to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the North Indian DPS

    In 2012, the IOTC began requiring its 31 contracting Parties to 
report sea turtle bycatch and to use safe handling and release 
techniques for sea turtles on longline vessels. The IOTC and IOSEA also 
recently completed an ``Ecological Risk Assessment and Productivity--
Susceptibility Analysis of sea turtles overlapping with fisheries in 
the IOTC region.'' One conclusion was that green turtles account for 50 
88 percent of artisanal and commercial gill nets bycatch. Two methods 
of estimating total bycatch were used, and resulted in an annual gill 
net bycatch estimate of 29,488 sea turtles within the IOTC region.
    While conservation efforts for the North Indian DPS are extensive 
and expanding, they still remain inadequate to ensure the long-term 
viability of the population. Efforts have been largely focused on the 
nesting beaches, and there are only recent efforts underway to 
understand the extent of green turtle interactions with gill nets and 
trawlers and the resulting cumulative effects from bycatch--one of the 
major threats to this DPS. Concerted efforts to identify and protected 
critical foraging grounds is also lacking.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the North Indian DPS

    The North Indian DPS has a high level of green turtle nesting 
abundance with two of the largest nesting assemblages of green turtles 
in the world nesting in Yemen and Oman. The North Indian DPS also has 
expansive, largely undeveloped nesting beaches, and many of these 
beaches are protected from development as nationally designated 
reserves or protected areas, although threats still remain. The North 
Indian DPS also features extensive coastal seagrass beds distributed 
throughout the region, which provide abundant foraging grounds for this 
species. Nesting beaches are distributed broadly throughout the region.
    Coastal development, beachfront lighting, fishing practices, and 
marine pollution at nesting beaches and important foraging grounds are 
continuing concerns across the DPS. Current illegal harvest of green 
turtles and eggs for human consumption is a continuing but limited 
threat to this DPS. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the North Indian 
DPS, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from gill nets and 
trawl fisheries, and the cumulative mortality from these fisheries is 
probably the greatest threat to this DPS. Additional threats from boat 
strikes, which are becoming more common, and expected impacts of 
climate change, will negatively affect this DPS.
    Conservation efforts are substantial but uneven in the range of the 
North Indian DPS and focused almost entirely on nesting beaches. The 
ability for some countries to sustain or develop needed

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conservation programs in the context of political instability within 
the region is of concern. Further, our analysis did not consider the 
scenario in which current laws or regulatory mechanisms were not 
continued. Given the conservation dependence of the species, without 
mechanisms in place to continue conservation efforts in this DPS, some 
threats could increase and population trends could be affected.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the North Indian DPS as 
threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of high nesting abundance in protected areas; 
however, the continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within 
the foreseeable future.

XII. East Indian-West Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Indian-West Pacific 
DPS

    The western boundary for the range of the East Indian-West Pacific 
DPS is 84[deg] E. longitude from 40[deg] S. to where it coincides with 
India near Odisha, northeast along the shoreline and into the West 
Pacific Ocean to include Taiwan extending east at 41[deg] N. to 
146[deg] E. longitude, south and west to 4.5[deg] N., 129[deg] E., then 
south and east to West Papua in Indonesia and the Torres Straits in 
Australia. The southern boundary is 40[deg] S. latitude, encompassing 
the Gulf of Carpentaria (Figure 2).
    Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed throughout the range of 
the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, with important nesting sites 
occurring in Northern Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak 
Turtle Islands), Peninsular Malaysia, and the Philippine Turtle 
Islands. The in-water range of the East Indian-West Pacific DPS is 
similarly widespread with shared foraging sites throughout the range of 
the DPS. The largest nesting site lies within Northern Australia, which 
supports approximately 25,000 nesting females (Limpus, 2009). 
Nonetheless, populations are substantially depleted from historical 
levels.
    There are 58 known nesting sites, although we note that the nesting 
female estimates for many of these sites are over a decade old. The 
largest, Wellesley Group, lies in northern Australia and supports 
approximately 25,000 nesting females (EPA Queensland Turtle 
Conservation Project unpublished data cited in Limpus, 2009). Five 
sites have 5,001-10,000 nesting females: Bilang-Bilangan, Indonesia 
(7,156; Reischig et al., 2012); Sabah Turtle Island Park, Malaysia 
(7,011; de Silva, 1982; Basintal, 2002; P. Bastinal pers. comm., 2011); 
Ningaloo, North West Cape, Australia (6,269; Prince, 2003; Markovina, 
2008; Bool et al., 2009; Gourlay et al., 2010; Kelliher et al., 2011); 
Baguan Island, Philippines (5,874; Pawikan Conservation Project, 2013); 
and Pangumbahan, Indonesia (5,199; Muhara and Herlina, 2012). Seven 
sites have 1,001-5,000 nesting females: Sangalaki (2,740; Reischig et 
al., 2012), Enu (2,048; Dethmers, 2010), Mataha (1,652; Reischig et 
al., 2012), and Belambangan Island, Indonesia (1,736; Dermawan, 2002); 
Terranganu (1,875; Chan, 2010) and Sarawak Turtle Island, Malaysia 
(1,155; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989; Chan 2006; Chan, 2010); and 
Lihiman, Philippines (1,217; Pawikan Conservation Project, 2013). Eight 
sites have 501-1,000 nesting females, 30 have <500 nesting females, and 
seven are unquantified.
    Green turtle populations within the range of the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS have experienced apparent declines at some nesting sites, 
and increases at others in the past several decades. For instance, in 
Southeast Asia, data suggest that populations have declined in the Gulf 
of Thailand, Vietnam, and the Berau Islands, Meru Betiri National Park, 
Pangumbahan, Thamihla Kyun, and perhaps Enu Island, all in Indonesia, 
although the lack of recent and/or multiple year data prevents an 
assessment of the current trends at these sites. At Sipadan, Sarawak 
and Terengganu in Malaysia, nesting appears to be stable, although 
Terengganu might be decreasing. Nesting has remained stable in the 
Philippine Turtle Islands and may have increased at the Sabah Turtle 
Islands, Malaysia. In Western Australia, data are not sufficient to 
draw any conclusions regarding long-term trends, although these sites, 
together with the Wellesley Group in Northern Australia (the largest 
nesting site), may constitute the most important green turtle nesting 
concentration in the Indian Ocean.
    When examining spatial structure for the East Indian-West Pacific 
DPS, the SRT examined three lines of evidence: genetic data, flipper 
and satellite tagging, and demographic data. Genetic sampling in the 
East Indian-West Pacific DPS has occurred at 22 nesting sites. There 
appears to be a complex population structure, even though there are 
gaps in sampling relative to distribution. Overall, this region is 
dominated by a few common and widespread haplotypes and has varying 
levels of spatial structure characterized by the presence of rare/
unique haplotypes at most nesting sites. There is significant 
population substructuring.
    Tagging and tracking studies have been geared to studying 
internesting migrations, and defining the range of internesting 
habitats and post-nesting migrations. Green turtles that were satellite 
tracked from Pulau Redang, Terengganu indicate migrations to the South 
China Sea and Sulu Sea areas (Liew, 2002). Cheng (2000) reported 
movements of eight post-nesting green turtles from Wan-An Island, 
Taiwan that were satellite tracked, and which distributed widely on the 
continental shelf to the east of mainland China. Satellite telemetry 
studies conducted from 2000 to 2003 demonstrated that the green turtles 
nesting at Taipin Tao are a shared natural resource among the nations 
in the southern South China Sea. Female green turtles tracked in the 
same area travelled long distances in a post-nesting migration, ending 
in the Sulu Sea in the Philippines and the Malaysia Peninsula with 
distances that ranged from 456 to 2,823 km (Charuchinda et al., 2002) 
and in the coastal region of Japan (Wang, 2006). Waayers and 
Fitzpatrick (2013) found that in the Kimberly region of Australia, the 
green turtle appears to have a broad migration distribution and 
numerous potential foraging areas.
    Mixed stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that green turtles 
from multiple nesting beach origins commonly mix at feeding areas in 
foraging grounds across northern Australia (Dethmers et al., 2010) and 
Malaysia (Jensen, 2010) with higher contributions from nearby large 
nesting sites. There is evidence of low frequency contribution from 
nesting sites outside the range of the DPS at some foraging areas.
    The demography of green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS 
varies throughout the nesting assemblages. This variation in parameters 
such as mean nesting size, remigration interval, internesting interval, 
clutch size, hatching success, and clutch frequency suggests a high 
level of population structuring in this DPS.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting and foraging areas 
are widespread within the range of this DPS, providing a level of 
population resilience through habitat diversity. The nesting season 
varies throughout the range of the DPS, with nesting from June to 
August in the inner Gulf of Thailand, peak nesting from March to July 
on Derawan Island (Charuchinda and Monanunsap, 1998; Abe et al., 2003; 
Aureggi et al., 2004; Adnyana et al., 2008), year-round nesting in 
Thameela Island, Myanmar and Aru, Indonesia (although peaking from 
November to March; (Dethmers, 2010; Lwin, 2009),

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and peak nesting from November to March in Aru, Indonesia (Dethmers, 
2010), Sukamade, southeastern Java (Arinal, 1997), Barrow Island, and 
western Australia (Pendoley, 2005). Nesting occurs on both insular and 
continental sites, yielding a degree of nesting diversity. Limited 
information also suggests that there are two types of nesting females 
within the DPS: Those with high site fidelity which nest regularly at 
one site, such as the Sabah Turtle Islands; and those with low site 
fidelity such as at Ishigaki Island which select different nesting 
sites allowing for increased diversity and resilience for the DPS 
(Basintal, 2002; Abe et al., 2003).

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Indian-West Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    In the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, the majority of green turtle 
nesting beaches are extensively eroded. Nesting habitat is degraded due 
to a variety of human activities largely related to tourism. Coastal 
development and associated artificial lighting, sand mining, and marine 
debris affect the amount and quality of habitat that is available to 
nesting green turtles. However, there are sanctuaries and parks 
throughout the region where nests are protected to various degrees.
    Most of the beaches in Vietnam have a large amount of marine 
debris, which includes glass, plastics, polystyrenes, floats, nets, and 
light bulbs. This debris can entrap turtles and impede nesting 
activity.
    In Australia, the majority of green turtle nesting along the 
beaches of the Gulf of Carpentaria occurs outside of the protection of 
the National Park. Other minor nesting sites lie within the protected 
lands of the Indigenous Protected Areas (Limpus, 2009). In Western 
Australia, the impacts to nesting and hatchling green turtles by 
independent turtle watchers as well as off-road vehicles has increased 
in the Ningaloo region as the number of visitors has increased over the 
years (Waayers, 2010). Nesting turtles and hatchlings are routinely 
disturbed by people with their cars and flashlights (Kelliher et al., 
2011). Burn-off flares associated with oil and gas production on the 
Northwest shelf of Australia are in sufficiently close proximity to the 
green turtle nesting beaches to possibly cause hatchling disorientation 
(Pendoley, 2000)
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Green turtles forage in the seagrass beds around the Andaman and 
Nicobar Islands in India. Some of these seagrass beds in the South 
Andaman group are no longer viable foraging habitat because of 
siltation and degradation due to waste disposal, a byproduct of the 
rapid increase in tourism (Andrews, 2000). Green turtles that forage 
off the waters of the Bay of Bengal in south Bangladesh also face 
depleted foraging habitat from divers collecting seagrass for 
commercial purposes and by anchoring of commercial ships, ferries, and 
boats in this habitat (Sarkar, 2001). In the nearshore waters of 
Thailand, seagrass beds are partially protected since fishing gear such 
as trawls are prohibited (Charuchinda et al., 2002). In the waters 
surrounding the islands of Togean and Banggai in Indonesia, the use of 
dynamite and potassium cyanide are common, and this type of fishing 
method destroys green turtle foraging habitat (Surjadi and Anwar, 
2001).
    Seagrass beds are found throughout the nearshore areas of Vietnam's 
mainland coast and islands (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003). Destructive 
fishing practices have been and possibly continue to be a major threat 
to this habitat in 21 of Vietnam's 29 provinces (Asia Development Bank, 
1999 as cited in the Ministry of Fisheries, 2003) and in the waters of 
Indonesia (Cruz, 2002; Dethmers, 2010). Although these destructive 
fishing practices are prohibited by legislation passed in 1989, 
enforcement may not be sufficient to prevent these practices from 
occurring. Green turtle foraging habitat is under increased threat from 
decreased water quality through river run-off and development (Ministry 
of Fisheries, 2003).
    In summary, within Factor A, we find that coastal development, 
beachfront lighting, erosion resulting from sand mining, and sea level 
rise, are a significant threat to a large portion of this DPS. The 
extent of fishing practices, depleted seagrass beds, and marine 
pollution is broad with high levels occurring in waters where high 
numbers of green turtles are known to forage and migrate are 
significant threats to the persistence of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    The green turtle populations within this DPS have been declining 
throughout their range. Populations throughout Asia have been depleted 
by long-term harvests of eggs and adults, and by by-catch in the ever-
growing fisheries (Shanker and Pilcher, 2003). On St. Martins Island, 
Bangladesh, over-exploitation has brought the nesting turtles to near 
extinction (Hasan, 2009). Nesting females continue to be killed in 
countries within Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean (Fleming, 2001; 
Fretey, 2001; Cruz, 2002). Despite substantial declines in green turtle 
nesting numbers, egg harvest remains legal in several of the countries 
within the range of this DPS. Some countries have protections in place; 
however, harvest continues due to lack of enforcement.
    In Myanmar and Thailand, hatcheries are set up to protect a portion 
of the eggs. However, these hatcheries retain hatchlings for several 
days for tourism purposes, thus reducing the likelihood of hatchling 
survival (Charuchinda et al., 2002).
    Turtle nesting numbers have decreased in peninsular Malaysia and 
the Philippines due to more than 40 years of overharvesting of eggs and 
females (Siow and Moll, 1982; de Silva, 1982; Limpus, 1995; Cruz, 
2002). In order to provide some protection for turtles, all three Sabah 
Turtle Islands were acquired and protected by the Sabah State 
Government in the 1970s (de Silva, 1982). After more than 20 years of 
conservation efforts (1970-1990), the population had still not shown 
signs of recovery (Limpus et al., 2001).
    Local islanders in Indonesia have traditionally considered turtles, 
especially green turtles, as part of their diet (Hitipeuw and Pet-
Soede, 2004 as cited in FAO, 2004). Illegal egg harvesting continues, 
but there is an increased effort to fully protect green turtles from 
harvest on the islands of Bilang-Bilangan and Mataha in Indonesia 
(Reischig et al., 2012).
    Despite legal protections for sea turtles, at-sea poaching of 
turtles is a continuing problem in Southeast Asia, especially by 
Hainanese and Vietnamese vessels. The poaching occurs in a wide-ranging 
area of the region, and has moved as turtle stocks have been depleted, 
with vessels being apprehended off Malaysia, Indonesia, and the 
Philippines (Pilcher et al., 2009 as cited in Lam et al., 2011).
    In Australia, green turtles are harvested by Aboriginal and Torres 
Strait Islanders for subsistence purposes. There is a widespread use of 
motorized aluminum boats in contrast to the traditional dugout canoes 
powered by paddles or sail. The total harvest of green turtles by 
indigenous people across northern and Western Australia is probably 
several thousand annually (Kowarsky, 1982; Henry and Lyle, 2003 as 
cited in Limpus, 2009).

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The indigenous harvest of eggs may be unsustainable in northeast Arnhem 
Land (Kennett and Yunupingu, 1998).
    Current legal and illegal collection of eggs and harvest of turtles 
occur throughout the East Indian-West Pacific DPS and persists as a 
significant threat to this DPS. The harvest of nesting females 
continues to threaten the stability of green turtle populations in many 
areas affecting the DPS by reducing adult abundance and reducing egg 
production.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    FP has been found in green turtles in Indonesia (Adnyana et al., 
1997), Japan (Y. Matsuzawa, Japanese Sea Turtle Association, pers. 
comm., 2004), the Philippines (Nalo-Ochona, 2000), Western Australia 
(Raidal and Prince, 1996; Aguirre and Lutz, 2004), and on PhuQuoc in 
Vietnam (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003). Epidemiological studies indicate 
rising incidence of this disease (George, 1997), thus the above list 
will likely grow in the future.
    The best available data suggest that current nest and hatchling 
predation on the East Indian-West Pacific DPS is prevalent and may be 
an increasing threat without nest protection and predatory control 
programs in place. Depredation of nests by feral animals is also 
widespread in many South Asian areas (Sunderraj et al., 2001; Islam, 
2002). Nest predation by feral pigs and dogs is a major threat on the 
Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India (Fatima et al., 2011). Monitor 
lizards are also a significant and widespread predator in some areas 
(Andrews et al., 2006). Dog predation is a major threat to the green 
turtle nests on Sonadia Island in Bangladesh (Islam et al., 2011). 
Jackals, foxes, wild boars, and monitor lizards also predate green 
turtle nests and hatchlings along the beaches of Bangladesh, and dogs 
also kill or injure nesting females in Bangladesh (Andrews et al., 
2006). Lizards and ghost crabs are the natural predators of green 
turtle nests in Thailand (Chantrapornsyl, 1993). In Malaysia, crabs 
(Ocypode spp.) predate green turtle eggs (Ali and Ibrahim, 2000), and 
gold-ringed cat snakes or mangrove snakes (Boigadendrophila), (Asiatic) 
reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus), monitor lizards (Varanus 
sp.), and house mice (Mus musculus) predate hatchlings (Hendrickson, 
1958). Monitor lizards, crabs, and ants predate eggs and hatchlings on 
the beaches of Vietnam (as cited in ``Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking and 
Coastal Habitat Education Program--An Educator's Guide'' http://www.ioseaturtles.org/Education/seaturtlebooklet.pdf). In Japan, raccoon 
dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and weasels (Mustela itatsi) are a 
threat to nests (Kamezaki et al., 2003). In Taiwan, snakes predate the 
nests (Cheng et al., 2009). On the North West Cape and the beaches of 
the Ningaloo coast of mainland Australia, a long established feral 
European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) population historically preyed heavily 
on eggs and is thought to be responsible for the lower numbers of 
nesting turtles on the mainland beaches (Baldwin et al., 2003; Kelliher 
et al., 2011).
    Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative 
data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats 
on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Although conservation efforts to protect some nesting beaches and 
marine habitat are underway, more widespread and consistent protection 
is needed. There are at least 16 national and international treaties 
and/or regulatory mechanisms that pertain to the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS. The analysis of these existing regulatory mechanisms 
assumed that all would remain in place at their current levels. The 
following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Australia, 
Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, 
Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and 
Vietnam. In addition, at least 17 international treaties and/or 
regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the 
East Indian-West Pacific DPS. However, some regulatory mechanisms, 
including laws and international treaties, are not realizing their full 
potential because they are not enforced, or do not apply in all 
countries occupied by the DPS.
    Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS 
that address the direct capture of green turtles for most of the 
countries within this DPS. These are implemented to various degrees 
throughout the range of the DPS. There are some national regulations 
within this DPS that specially address the harvest of green turtles, 
while a few regulations are limited in that they only apply to certain 
size classes, or times of year, or allowed for traditional use.
    Fishery bycatch throughout the range of the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS (see Factor E), as well as anthropogenic threats to nesting 
beaches and foraging grounds (Factor A) and eggs/turtles and foraging 
(Factors A, B, C, and E), are substantial. Although national and 
international governmental and non-governmental entities in the East 
Indian-West Pacific DPS are currently working toward reducing green 
turtle bycatch as well as egg and turtle harvest, it is unlikely that 
this source of mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range 
of the DPS in the near future. This is due to the lack of bycatch 
reduction in commercial and artisanal fisheries operating within the 
range of this DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing 
distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated 
effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations 
on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive 
bycatch reduction technologies. Beaches and in-water habitat throughout 
the range of the DPS are under various levels of protection, depending 
in part on the clarity of regulations and consistency of funding for 
enforcement.
    In summary, although regulatory mechanisms are in place that should 
address direct and incidental take of green turtles within this DPS, 
these regulatory mechanisms are not implemented throughout the range of 
this DPS. These mechanisms are not sufficiently implemented to address 
the direct harvest of green turtles and are insufficient to address the 
major threat of bycatch which remains a significant risk to this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a 
significant threat to the survival of green turtles in the East Indian-
West Pacific DPS. Green turtles may be caught in drift and set gill 
nets, bottom and mid-water trawling, fishing dredges, pound nets and 
weirs, and haul and purse seines.
    Bycatch in fisheries using gears such as trawlers, drift nets, and 
purse seines is thought to be one of the main causes of decline in the 
green turtle population in Thailand and Malaysia. The rapid expansion 
of fishing operations is largely responsible for the increase in adult 
turtle mortality due to bycatch (Settle, 1995). The most used fishing 
gears in the waters of Thailand are trawling and drift gill nets. Heavy 
fishing is the main threat to foraging sea turtles (Chan et al., 1988; 
Chantrapornsyl, 1993; Liew, 2002).
    Gill nets and set bag nets are the two major fishing gears used in 
the Bay of Bengal, and green turtles are likely captured during these 
fishing operations (Hossain and Hoq, 2010). Along the

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coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the main type of fishery is gill 
nets and purse seines with thousands of turtles killed annually by 
fisheries operations including the shark fishery (Chandi et al., 2012; 
Shanker and Pilcher, 2003). In 1994, Bhaskar estimated at least 600 
green turtles were killed as a result of the shark fishery in this 
area. Over the last decade, there has been an increase in the large 
predator fishing industry. Green turtle mortality can be expected to be 
much higher than that estimated in the 1990s as a result of these 
current operations (Namboothri et al., 2012).
    Trawl fishing is also common in Bangladesh. No green turtle 
stranding information is available to determine the fishery threat 
level to the green turtle population; however, it is expected to be 
high as TEDs are not used and the population has declined (Ahmed et 
al., 2006; Khan et al., 2006). On the Turtle Islands in the 
Philippines, there have been an increased number of dead turtles as a 
result of fishing activities, such as shrimp trawlers and demersal nets 
(Cruz, 2002).
    One of the main threats to green turtles in Vietnam and Indonesia 
is the incidental capture from gill and trawl nets and the 
opportunistic capture by fishers. Hundreds of green turtles are 
captured by fisheries per year in Vietnam (Ministry of Fisheries, 2003; 
Hamann et al., 2006a; Dethmers, 2010).
    In Indonesia, green turtles were recorded as one of the main 
species caught in the longline fisheries. Trawl gear is still allowed 
in the Arafura Sea, posing a major threat to green turtles (Dethmers, 
2010). Shrimp trawl captures in Indonesia are high because of the 
limited use of TEDs (Zainudin et al., 2008).
    The estimated bycatch of the Japanese large-mesh drift net fishery 
in the North Pacific Ocean in 1990-1991 was 1,501 turtles, of which 248 
were estimated to be green turtles (Wetherall et al., 1993). Wetherall 
et al. (1993) report that the actual mortality of sea turtles taken in 
the Japanese and Taiwanese large-mesh fisheries may have been between 
2,500 and 9,000 per year.
b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    Pollution from oil spills, as well as from agricultural and organic 
chemicals, is a major threat to the waters used by green turtles in the 
Bay of Bengal (Sarkar, 2001). The result of human population growth in 
China has been an increased amount of pollutants in the coastal system. 
Discharges from untreated sewage have occurred in Xisha Archipelago (Li 
et al., 2004 as cited in Chan et al., 2007). Concentrations of nine 
heavy metals (iron, manganese, zinc, copper, lead, nickel, cadmium, 
cobalt, and mercury) and other trace elements were found in liver, 
kidney, and muscle tissues of green turtles collected from Yaeyama 
Islands, Okinawa, Japan (Anan et al., 2001). The accumulation of 
cadmium found in the green turtles is likely due to accumulations of 
this heavy metal in the plant materials on which they forage (Sakai et 
al., 2000).
    In the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, discarded fishing nets have 
been found to cause a high number of turtle deaths with the majority 
being green turtles (Chatto et al., 1995).
c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Effects of climate change include, among other things, increased 
sea surface temperatures, the alteration of thermal sand 
characteristics of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could 
result in the reduction or cessation of male hatchling production 
(Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise 
in sea level, which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting 
habitat. While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    Natural environmental events, such as cyclones and hurricanes, may 
affect green turtles in the East Indian-West Pacific DPS. Typhoons have 
been shown to cause severe beach erosion and negatively affect hatching 
success at green turtle nesting beaches in Japan, especially in areas 
already prone to erosion.
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch, 
particularly from drift net and purse seine fisheries, occur throughout 
the East Indian-West Pacific DPS, with localized high levels of 
mortality in waters where juvenile to adult turtles are known to forage 
and migrate are a persistent risk to this DPS. In addition, vessel 
collisions, marine pollution, changes likely to result from climate 
change, and natural disasters are expected to be an increasing threat 
to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the East Indian-West Pacific DPS

    There are numerous ongoing conservation efforts in this region. 
Hatcheries have been set up throughout the region to protect a portion 
of the eggs laid and prevent complete egg harvesting. In addition, 
bycatch reduction efforts have been made in some areas, protected areas 
are established throughout the region, and monitoring, outreach and 
enforcement efforts have made progress in sea turtle conservation. 
Despite these conservation efforts, considerable uncertainty in the 
status of this DPS lies with inadequate efforts to measure bycatch in 
the region, a short time-series of monitoring on nesting beaches, and 
missing vital rates data necessary for population assessments.
    In India, since 1978, the Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile 
Bank Trust has conducted sea turtle surveys and studies in the islands. 
In a bilateral agreement, the Governments of the Philippines and 
Malaysia established The Turtle Island Heritage Protected Area (TIHPA), 
made up of nine islands (six in the Philippines and three in Malaysia). 
The TIHPA is one of the world's major nesting grounds for green 
turtles. Management of the TIHPA is shared by both countries. One of 
the nesting beaches for this DPS, Australia's Dirk Hartog Island, is 
part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and recently became part of 
Australia's National Park System. This designation may facilitate 
monitoring of nesting beaches and enforcement of prohibitions on direct 
take of green turtles and their eggs. Conservation efforts on nesting 
beaches have included invasive predator control.
    Illegal trade of turtle parts continues to be a problem in the East 
Indian-West Pacific DPS. In order to reduce this threat, the Vietnamese 
Government, with assistance from IUCN, WWF, TRAFFIC and the Danish 
Government, formulated a Marine Turtle Conservation Action Plan in 2010 
to expand awareness to fishers and enforcement officers, and to 
confiscate sea turtle products (Stiles, 2009; Ministry of Fisheries 
2010). The level of effectiveness and progress of this program is not 
known.
    TEDs are now in use in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, 
Indonesia and Brunei, expanded by initiatives of the South East Asian 
Fisheries Development Center (Food and Agriculture Organization of the 
United Nations, 2004). In 2000, the use of TEDs in the Northern 
Australian Prawn Fishery was made mandatory. Prior to the use of TEDs, 
this fishery took between 5,000 and 6,000 sea turtles as bycatch 
annually, with a mortality rate estimated to be 40 percent (Poiner and 
Harris, 1996). Since the mandatory use of TEDs has been in effect, the 
annual bycatch of sea turtles in the Northern

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Australian Prawn Fishery has dropped to fewer than 200 sea turtles per 
year, with a mortality rate of approximately 22 percent (based on 
recent years). Initial progress has been made to measure the threat of 
incidental capture of sea turtles in other artisanal and commercial 
fisheries in the Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean (Lewison et al., 2004; 
Limpus, 2009); however, the data remain inadequate for population 
assessments.
    As in other DPSs, persistent marine debris poses entanglement and 
ingestion hazards to green turtles. In 2009, Australia's Department of 
the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts published a threat 
abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine 
life (http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/d945695b-a3b9-4010-91b4-914efcdbae2f/files/marine-debris-threat-abatement-plan.pdf).

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS

    The East Indian-West Pacific DPS is characterized by a relatively 
large geographic area with widespread nesting reported in 58 different 
locations throughout the range of the DPS. Although the numerous 
nesting sites have relatively high abundance of nesting females, 
decades of harvesting and habitat degradation have led to a drastic 
decline in the sea turtle populations within this DPS in the last 
century. Population trends at many of the higher abundance rookeries 
are decreasing, though there appears to be an increasing trend on Sabah 
in Malaysia and on Baguan in the Philippines, presumably due to 
effective conservation efforts.
    Continued harvest, coastal development, beachfront lighting, 
erosion, fishing practices, and marine pollution both at nesting 
beaches and important foraging grounds are all continuing concerns 
across the range of the DPS. Harvest of turtles and eggs for human 
consumption continues as a high threat to this East Indian-West Pacific 
DPS. Coastal development, largely due to tourism, is an increasing 
threat in many areas. Fishery bycatch occurs throughout the range of 
the DPS, particularly bycatch mortality of green turtles from pelagic 
longline, set net, and trawl fisheries. Additional threats due to 
climate change, such as loss of habitat due to sea level rise and 
increased ratio of female to male turtles, negatively impact this DPS. 
Conservation efforts have been effective in a few areas but are lacking 
or not effective in most.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the East Indian-West 
Pacific DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of 
extinction presently because of high nesting abundance and 
geographically widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the 
continued threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable 
future.

XIII. Central West Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central West Pacific DPS

    The range of the Central West Pacific DPS has a northern boundary 
of 41[deg] N. latitude and is bounded by 41[deg] N., 169[deg] E. in the 
northeast corner, going southeast to 9[deg] N., 175[deg] W., then 
southwest to 13[deg] S., 171[deg] E., west and slightly north to the 
eastern tip of Papua New Guinea, along the northern shore of the Island 
of New Guinea to West Papua in Indonesia, northwest to 4.5[deg] N., 
129[deg] E. then to West Papua in Indonesia, then north to 41[deg] N., 
146[deg] E. It encompasses the Republic of Palau (Palau), FSM, New 
Guinea, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Guam, the CNMI, and a 
portion of Japan (Ogasawara; Figure 2).
    Green turtle nesting occurs at low levels throughout the geographic 
distribution of the DPS (approximately 51 sites), with isolated 
locations having higher nesting activity. Only two populations are 
known to have >1,000 nesting turtles, with all the rest having fewer 
than 400 nesting females, for a total number of known nesting females 
of approximately 6,500. The highest numbers of females nesting in this 
DPS are located in Gielop and Iar Island, Ulithi Atoll, Yap, Federated 
States of Micronesia (FSM; 1,412) or 22 percent of the population 
2013); Chichijima (1,301) and Hahajima (394), Ogasawara, Japan; Bikar 
Atoll, Marshall Islands (300); and Merir Island, Palau (441; (NMFS and 
USFWS, 1998; Bureau of Marine Resources, 2005; Barr, 2006; Palau Bureau 
of Marine Resources, 2008; Maison et al., 2010; H. Suganuma, 
Everlasting Nature of Asia, pers. comm., 2012; J. Cruce, Ocean Society, 
pers. comm., 2013). There are numerous other populations in the FSM, 
Solomon Islands, Palau, Guam, and the CNMI. Historical baseline nesting 
information in general is not widely available in this region, but 
exploitation and trade of green turtles throughout the region is well-
known (Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989).
    Green turtles departing nesting grounds within the range of this 
DPS travel throughout the western Pacific Ocean. Green turtles are 
found in coastal waters in low to moderate densities at foraging areas 
throughout the range of the DPS. Aerial sea turtle surveys show that an 
in-water population exists around Guam (Division of Aquatic and 
Wildlife Resources, 2011). In-water green turtle density in the 
Marianas Archipelago is low and mostly restricted to juveniles (Pultz 
et al., 1999; Kolinski et al., 2005; Kolinski et al., 2006; Palacios, 
2012a). In-water information in this DPS overall is particularly 
limited.
    There is insufficient long-term and standardized monitoring 
information to adequately describe abundance and population trends for 
many areas of the Central West Pacific DPS. The available information 
suggests a nesting population decrease in some portions of the DPS like 
the Marshall Islands, or unknown trends in other areas such as Palau, 
Papua New Guinea, the Marianas, Solomon Islands, or the FSM (Maison et 
al., 2010). There is only one site for which 15 or more years of recent 
data are available for annual nesting female abundance, one of the 
standards for performing a PVA. This is at Chichijima, Japan, one of 
the major green turtle nesting concentrations in Japan (Horikoshi et 
al.,1994). Although the PVA has limitations, it shows a continuing 
upward trend for the population. The population has increased in 
abundance from a mean of approximately 100 annual nesting females in 
the late 1970s/early 1980s to a mean of approximately 500 annual 
nesting females since 2000. Chaloupka et al. (2008a) reports an 
estimated annual population growth rate of 6.8 percent per year for the 
Chichijima nesting site.
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central 
West Pacific has recently improved, but remains challenging given the 
large number of small islands and atoll nesting sites. Stock structure 
analysis indicated that nesting sites separated by more than 1,000 km 
were significantly differentiated from each other while neighboring 
nesting sites within 500 km showed no genetic differentiation (Dutton 
et al., 2014). Based on mtDNA analyses, there are four independent 
stocks within the DPS (Dethmers et al. 2006; Jensen 2010; Dutton et al. 
2014).
    With respect to tagging and telemetry, there are records of turtles 
flipper tagged in the Philippines nesting in the FSM; a turtle tagged 
in Japan was recorded nesting in the FSM; turtles tagged in the Japan 
Archipelago and China were recorded nesting in the Ogasawara islands 
(Suganuma, pers. comm., Ogasawara Marine Center, Everlasting Nature of 
Asia, unpublished data); and turtles tagged in the FSM were recaptured 
in the Philippines, Marshall

[[Page 15312]]

Islands, and Papua New Guinea (Palau BMR, 2008; Cruce, 2009). Satellite 
telemetry shows that nesting females migrate to areas both within and 
outside of the range of the Central West Pacific DPS. For example, 
satellite tracks show turtles moving from the Mariana Islands to the 
Philippines and Japan, and others moving from the Chichijima Islands of 
Ogasawara to the main islands of Japan (Hatase et al., 2006; Japan 
Fisheries Resource Conservation Association, 1999). Green turtles have 
also been shown to move from the FSM to the Philippines and to the west 
(G. Balazs, NMFS, unpublished data; Kolinski, et al., unpublished 
data.)
    Demographic data availability is limited and somewhat variable for 
many nesting sites in the range of this DPS. Variability in parameters 
such as remigration interval, clutch size, hatching success, and clutch 
frequency is not separated out regionally within the DPS and, 
therefore, does not necessarily suggest a high level of population 
structuring.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the overall range of the 
DPS is relatively widespread, which lends some resilience. However, 
nesting generally occurs at what appear to be low numbers, except in 
several locations, and only on islands and atolls throughout the range 
of the DPS. Nesting information is limited for some areas, but occurs 
from November to August in Palau; from March through September in the 
FSM; and May to August in Ogasawara, Japan. Some turtles travel outside 
the bounds of the range of this DPS, into the East Indian/West Pacific 
DPS presumably to forage.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central West Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    In the Central West Pacific Ocean, some nesting beaches have become 
severely degraded from a variety of activities. Destruction and 
modification of green turtle nesting habitat results from coastal 
development and construction, placement of barriers to nesting, 
beachfront lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, sand extraction, 
beach erosion, beach pollution, removal of native vegetation, and 
presence of non-native vegetation.
    Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the insular 
Pacific and this expansion is exerting increased pressure on limited 
island resources. The most valuable land on most Pacific islands is 
often located along the coastline, particularly when it is associated 
with a sandy beach. For instance, construction (and associated 
lighting) on the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the CNMI, is 
occurring at a rapid rate in some areas and is resulting in loss or 
degradation of green turtle nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 1998).
    In the FSM, construction of houses and pig pens on Oroluk beaches 
in Pohnpei State interferes with turtle nesting by creating barriers to 
nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Buden, 1999). Nesting habitat 
destruction is also a major threat to Guam turtles and has resulted 
mainly from construction and development due to increased tourism (NMFS 
and USFWS, 1998; Project GloBAL, 2009a). Coastal construction is a 
moderate problem on Majuro Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall 
Islands (NMFS and USFWS, 1998); however, it is unknown to what extent 
nesting beaches are being affected. On the outer atolls of the Marshall 
Islands, beach erosion has been aggravated by airfield and dock 
development, and by urban development on Majuro and Kwajalein Atolls. 
In the Republic of Palau, increasing nesting habitat degradation from 
tourism and coastal development has been identified as a threat to sea 
turtles (Eberdong and Klain, 2008; Isamu and Guilbeaux, 2002), although 
the extent and significance of the impacts are unknown.
    Also in the CNMI, the majority of the nesting beaches on Tinian are 
on military-leased land, where the potential for construction impacts 
exists (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). Increased 
public use of nesting beaches is a threat to sea turtle nesting habitat 
throughout the CNMI. Public use of beaches includes a variety of 
recreational activities, including picnicking, swimming, surfing, 
playing sports, scuba diving and snorkeling access (CNMI Coastal 
Resources Management Office, 2011). Beach driving is a pastime on 
Saipan and could threaten green turtle nesting habitat (NMFS and USFWS, 
1998; Palacios, 2012a; Wusstig, 2012).
    Expected U.S. military expansion plans for this region are likely 
to include relocation of thousands of military personnel to Guam and 
increased training exercises in the CNMI (CNMI Coastal Resources 
Management Office, 2011).
    In the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, nighttime tourist and resident 
activity on beaches to view and photograph nesting turtles is a 
problem, resulting in harassment of nesting turtles and increased 
aborted nesting attempts (Ishizaki et al., 2011).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Fishing methods not only incidentally capture green turtles and 
destroy bottom habitat (including seagrasses) but may also deplete 
invertebrate and fish populations and thus alter ecosystem dynamics. 
Dynamite fishing occurs in the FSM (NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Government of 
the Federated States of Micronesia, 2004) and the Marshall Islands (Hay 
and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005). Dynamite fishing, as well as use of fish 
poisons, occurs in Papua New Guinea, although these practices are small 
scale and relatively isolated (Berdach and Mandeakali, 2004). Coral 
reefs and seagrass beds within the urban centers of the four states of 
the FSM (Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae; NMFS and USFWS, 1998) and 
Saipan have been reported as being degraded by hotels, golf courses, 
and general tourist activities (Project GloBAL, 2009b), presumably as a 
result of runoff and other impacts. Coastal development in Guam has 
resulted in sedimentation, which has damaged Guam's coral reefs and, 
presumably, food sources for turtles (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). Coral 
reefs and seagrass habitat off the lagoon shoreline of the Kwajalein 
Atoll islands and Majuro Atoll have been degraded by coastal 
construction, dredging, boat anchoring, and/or eutrophication from 
sewage and runoff from landfills, grave sites, and pig and chicken pens 
(NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005).
    Dredging and filling as well as sand extraction have contributed to 
changes to longshore processes and coastal erosion in the Marshall 
Islands, FSM, Kiribati's Gilbert Islands chain, and Palau (Smith et 
al., 1997; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Government of the Federated States of 
Micronesia, 2004; Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005; Pacific News Center, 
2012).
    Marine pollution, including direct contamination and structural 
habitat degradation, can affect green turtle neritic and oceanic 
habitat. In Palau, environmental contamination in the form of sewage 
effluent is a problem around Koror State, particularly Malakal Harbor, 
and nearby urban areas (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In the Solomon Islands, 
sewage discharges from land and discharges of garbage, bilge water, and 
other pollutants from ships have been identified as sources of 
pollution to the coastal and marine environments (Solomon Islands 
Ministry of Environment Conservation and Meteorology, 2008). Land-based 
activities, including logging, plantation

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development, and mining, often cause excessive sedimentation of 
nearshore waters (Sulu et al., 2000).
    Environmental contamination was identified as a minor problem in 
the Marshall Islands in 1998 (NMFS and USFWS, 1998) and around Wake 
Island (Defense Environmental Network and Information Exchange, 
undated). Rudrud et al. (2007) found that there is a high probability 
of green turtles being exposed to toxicants remaining in the Marshall 
Islands from past wars and weapons testing (e.g., foraging on algae 
growing on toxic surfaces, resting near irradiated shipwrecks).
    In summary, we find that the Central West Pacific DPS of the green 
turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its 
terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use 
practices as considered above in Factor A. Destruction and modification 
of green turtle nesting habitat resulting from coastal development and 
construction, beachfront lighting, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, 
beach erosion, and pollution are significant threats to the persistence 
of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Directed take of eggs is a known ongoing problem in the Central 
West Pacific in the CNMI, FSM, Guam, Kiribati (Gilbert Islands chain), 
Papua, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, and Palau (Eckert, 1993; 
Guilbeaux, 2001; Hitipeuw and Maturbongs, 2002; Philip, 2002). In 
addition to the collection of eggs from nesting beaches, the killing of 
nesting females continues to threaten the stability of green turtle 
populations. Ongoing harvest of nesting adults has been documented in 
the CNMI (Palacios, 2012a), FSM (Cruce, 2009), Guam (Cummings, 2002), 
Papua (Hitipeuw and Maturbongs, 2002), Papua New Guinea (Maison et al., 
2010), and Palau (Guilbeaux, 2001). Mortality of turtles in foraging 
habitats is also problematic for recovery efforts. Ongoing intentional 
capture of green turtles in their marine habitats has been documented 
in southern and eastern Papua New Guinea (Limpus et al., 2002) and the 
Solomon Islands (D. Broderick, 1998; Pita and Broderick, 2005).
    Green turtles have long been harvested for their meat in the 
Ogasawara Islands, and records show a rapid decline in the sea turtle 
population between 1880 and 1920 (Horikoshi et al., 1994; Ishizaki, 
2007). Currently, sea turtle harvest is strictly regulated with a 
harvest limit of 135 mature turtles per year (Ishizaki, 2007).
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    The potential effects of FP and endoparasites also exist for green 
turtles found in the Central West Pacific Ocean, but the impacts to the 
population are unknown.
    The loss of eggs to non-human predators is a severe problem in some 
areas. These predators include domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, 
and pigs, as well as wild species such as rats, mongoose, birds, 
monitor lizards, snakes, and crabs, ants, and other invertebrates 
(Suganuma et al., 1996; NMFS and USFWS, 1998; Maturbongs, 2000; 
Cummings, 2002; Wilson et al., 2004; Cruce, 2008).
    Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative 
data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats 
on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Regional and national legislation to conserve green turtles (often 
all sea turtles) exists throughout the range of the DPS. National 
protective legislation generally prohibits intentional killing, 
harassment, possession, trade, or attempts at these; however, a lack of 
or inadequate enforcement of these laws appears to be pervasive. The 
following countries have laws to protect green turtles: CNMI, FSM, 
Guam, Japan (Ogasawara Islands), Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, 
Palau, Papua, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and United States 
(Wake Island). In addition, at least 17 international treaties and/or 
regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the 
Central West Pacific DPS. These are implemented to various degrees 
throughout the range of the DPS. There are some national regulations, 
within this DPS, that specially address the harvest of green turtles 
while a few regulations are limited in that they only apply to turtles 
of certain sizes, times of years, or allow for harvest for tradition 
use.
    On December 12, 2008, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries 
Commission issued a Conservation and Management Measure (2008-03; 
https://www.wcpfc.int/doc/cmm-2008-03/conservation-and-management-sea-turtles) to reduce sea turtle mortality during fishing operations, 
collect and report information on fisheries interactions with turtles, 
and encourage safe handling and resuscitation of turtles. This measure 
requires purse seine vessels to avoid encircling turtles and to release 
entangled turtles. It also requires longline vessels to use line 
cutters and dehookers to release turtles. However, enforcement 
mechanisms are not explicit, and the level of compliance is uncertain.
    Additional regulatory mechanisms are not in place in many countries 
within this DPS to address the major threat of bycatch within this DPS. 
It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be sufficiently reduced 
across the range of the DPS in the near future because of the diversity 
and magnitude of the fisheries operating in the DPS, the lack of 
comprehensive information on fishing distribution and effort, 
limitations on implementing demonstrated effective conservation 
measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on enforcement 
capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch reduction 
technologies. Although conservation efforts to protect some nesting 
beaches are underway, more widespread and consistent protection would 
speed recovery. Some regulatory mechanisms, including laws and 
international treaties, are not realizing their full potential because 
they are not enforced adequately, or do not apply in all countries 
occupied by the DPS.
    The Status Review revealed a lack of existing regulatory mechanisms 
to address coastal development, pollution, sea level rise, and effects 
of climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of 
this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a 
threat to the survival of green turtles in the Central West Pacific. 
Sea turtles may be caught in longline, pole and line, and purse seine 
fisheries.
    Within the Marshall Islands, Palau, the FSM, and the Solomon 
Islands, a purse-seine fishery for tuna and a significant longline 
fishery operate, and sea turtles have been captured in both fisheries 
with green turtle mortality occurring (Oceanic Fisheries Programme, 
2001; McCoy, 2003; Hay and Sablan-Zebedy, 2005; McCoy, 2007a; McCoy, 
2007b; Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, 2008).
    Numerous subsistence and small-scale commercial fishing operations 
occur along Saipan's western coast and along both the Rota and Tinian 
coasts (CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). Incidental 
catch of turtles in Guam's coastal waters by commercial fishing vessels 
likely also occurs (NMFS

[[Page 15314]]

and USFWS, 1998). In 2007, 222 fishing vessels (200 purse-seiners and 
22 longliners) had access to Papua New Guinea waters (Kumoru, 2008). 
Although no official reports have been released on sea turtle bycatch 
within these fisheries (Project GloBAL, 2009c), sea turtle interactions 
with both fisheries have been commonly observed (Kumoru, 2008). 
However, the level of mortality is unknown.
b. Vessel Strikes
    The impacts of vessel strikes in the Central West Pacific are 
unknown, but not thought to be of great consequence, except possibly in 
Palau where high speed skiffs constantly travel throughout the lagoon 
south of the main islands (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). However, green 
turtles have been documented as occasionally being hit by boats in Guam 
(Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, 2012).
c. Pollution
    In the FSM, debris is dumped freely and frequently off boats and 
ships (including government ships). Landfill areas are practically 
nonexistent in the outer islands and have not been addressed adequately 
on Yap proper or on Chuuk and Pohnpei. The volume of imported goods 
(including plastic and paper packaging) appears to be increasing (NMFS 
and USFWS, 1998). In Palau, entanglement in abandoned fishing nets has 
been identified as a threat to sea turtles (Eberdong and Klain, 2008). 
In the Marshall Islands, debris and garbage disposal in coastal waters 
is a serious problem on Majuro Atoll and Ebete Island (Kwajalein 
Atoll), both of which have inadequate space, earth cover, and shore 
protection for sanitary landfills. This problem also exists to a lesser 
extent at Daliet Atoll (NMFS and USFWS, 1998).
    A study of the gastrointestinal tracts of 36 slaughtered green 
turtles in the Ogasawara Islands of Japan in 2001 revealed the presence 
of marine debris (e.g., plastic bag pieces, plastic blocks, 
monofilament lines, Styrofoam pieces) in the majority of the turtles 
(Sako and Horikoshi, 2003).
d. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Over the long term, Central West Pacific turtle populations could 
be affected by the alteration of thermal sand characteristics (from 
global warming), resulting in the reduction or cessation of male 
hatchling production (Cami[ntilde]as, 2004; Hawkes et al., 2009; 
Kasparek et al., 2001; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Further, a 
significant rise in sea level would restrict green turtle nesting 
habitat in the Central West Pacific. Coastal erosion has been 
identified as a high risk in the CNMI due to the existence of 
concentrated human population centers near erosion-prone zones, coupled 
with the potential increasing threat of erosion from sea level rise 
(CNMI Coastal Resources Management Office, 2011). In the FSM, Yap 
State's low coralline atolls are extremely vulnerable to rises in sea 
levels and will be adversely affected if rises occur (NMFS and USFWS, 
1998). These risks are high for all beaches in the Central West 
Pacific. Interestingly, Barnett and Adger (2003) identified projected 
increases in sea-surface temperature, and not sea level rise, as the 
greatest long-term risk of climate change to atoll morphology and thus 
to atoll countries like those in the Central West Pacific. They state 
that coral reefs, which are essential to the formation and maintenance 
of the islets located around the rim of an atoll, are highly sensitive 
to sudden changes in sea-surface temperature. Thus, climate change 
impacts could have profound long-term impacts on green turtle nesting 
in the Central West Pacific, but it is not possible to project the 
impacts at this point in time.
    Natural environmental events such as cyclones and hurricanes may 
affect green turtles in the Central West Pacific DPS. These storm 
events have been shown to cause severe beach erosion with likely 
negative effects on hatching success at many green turtle nesting 
beaches, especially in areas already prone to erosion. Shoreline 
erosion occurs naturally on many islands in the atolls of the Marshall 
Islands due to storms, sea level rise from the El Ni[ntilde]o-Southern 
Oscillation, and currents (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). Some erosion of 
nesting beaches at Oroluk was reported in 1990 after passage of Typhoon 
Owen (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). However, effects of these natural events 
may be exacerbated by climate change. While sea turtles have survived 
past eras that have included significant temperature fluctuations, 
future climate change is expected to happen at unprecedented rates, and 
if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may face local to widespread 
extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts from global climate change 
induced by human activities are likely to become more apparent in 
future years (IPCC, 2007).
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch continues 
to threaten this DPS. In addition, changes likely to result from 
climate change and natural disasters are increasing threats to this 
DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the Central West Pacific DPS

    Very few areas that host important green turtle nesting or foraging 
aggregations have been designated as protected areas within the Central 
West Pacific. However, at least one country, Palau, has site-specific 
conservation for sea turtle habitat protection. Two nationally mandated 
protected areas, Ngerukewid Islands Wildlife Preserve and Ngerumekaol 
Spawning Area, exist within Koror State, and restrictions are placed on 
entry and fishing within established boundaries.
    Marine debris is a problem on some green turtle nesting beaches and 
foraging areas in the Central West Pacific, in particular on the 
nesting beaches of the CNMI (Palacios, 2012a; 2012b) and in the 
nearshore foraging areas of the FSM, Marshall Islands, and Palau (NMFS 
and USFWS, 1998; Eberdong and Klain, 2008). Organized beach clean-ups 
on some CMNI beaches have been conducted to help mitigate this impact 
(Palacios, 2012b).
    Overall, it appears that international and national laws to protect 
green turtles may be insufficient or not implemented effectively to 
address the needs of green turtles in the Central West Pacific. This 
minimizes the potential success of existing conservation efforts.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central West Pacific 
DPS

    The Central West Pacific DPS is characterized by a relatively small 
nesting population spread across a relatively expansive area roughly 
2,500 miles wide (Palau to the Marshall Islands) and 2,500 miles long 
(Ogasawara, Japan to the Solomon Islands). This DPS is dominated by 
insular nesting. Fifty-one known nesting sites were analyzed, although 
many had very old data (20-30 years old). Sixteen sites were identified 
but numbers of nesting females were ``unquantified,'' and another 21 
had fewer than 100 nesting females. Only two sites had more than 1,000 
nesting females (1,412 and 1,301). Further study of this DPS would 
improve our understanding of it.
    The limited available information on trends suggests a nesting 
population decrease in some areas, an increase in one Japanese nesting 
site, and unknown trends in others. The second largest nesting site in 
this DPS (Chichijima, Japan) shows positive growth. The dispersed 
location of nesting sites and lack of concentration of nesting provides 
a level of habitat diversity and population resilience which reduces

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overall extinction risk, as does widely varied nesting seasons; 
however, the contribution of this characteristic to such diversity and 
resilience is reduced by the small size of many of these sites and the 
threats faced in each of the nesting and foraging areas.
    Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the insular 
Pacific and this expansion is accompanied by threats to green turtle 
nesting habitat resulting from coastal development and construction, 
beachfront lighting, degradation of waters and seagrass beds off of 
populated areas, and sand extraction. Destructive fishing methods (use 
of dynamite and poisons) not only incidentally capture green turtles, 
but also deplete invertebrate and fish populations and thus alter 
ecosystem dynamics. Fishery bycatch, particularly bycatch mortality of 
green turtles from longline, pole and line, and purse seine fisheries, 
continue as threats to this DPS. In addition, legal and illegal harvest 
of green turtles and eggs for human consumption remains a significant 
threat in many areas of this DPS. Finally, changes likely to result 
from climate change and natural disasters could have profound long-term 
impacts on green turtle nesting in the Central West Pacific.
    Although regulatory mechanisms are in place that should address 
direct and incidental take of Central West Pacific green turtles, these 
regulatory mechanisms are insufficient or are not being implemented 
effectively to address the population trajectories of green turtles.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central West Pacific 
DPS as endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance and exposure to 
increasing threats, we find that this DPS is presently in danger of 
extinction throughout its range.

XIV. Southwest Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters in the Southwest Pacific DPS

    The range of the Southwest Pacific DPS extends from the western 
boundary of Torres Strait, to the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea and 
out to the offshore coordinate of 13[deg] S., 171[deg] E.; the eastern 
boundary runs from this point southeast to 40[deg] S., 176[deg] E.; the 
southern boundary runs along 40[deg] S. from 142[deg] E. to 176[deg] 
E.; and the western boundary runs from 40[deg] S., 142[deg] E north to 
Australian coast then follows the coast northward to Torres Strait 
(Figure 2).
    Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed throughout the Southwest 
Pacific Ocean at 12 total nesting sites, although it should be noted 
that, perhaps more so than in other DPSs, proximate nesting beaches 
were grouped for analysis because nesting populations are small, with 
the exception of a few sites, including Raine Island, where the 
majority (>90 percent) of the nesting in the northern GBR occurs. While 
it would be possible to split the nesting aggregations into more than 
100 different sites, because many of the most recent estimates are 
aggregated (Limpus, 2009), we followed this tendency and aggregated 
nesting within broad regional areas. The bulk of this DPS nests within 
Australia's Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and eastern Torres 
Strait. The northern GBR and Torres Strait support some of the world's 
highest concentrations of nesting (Chaloupka et al., 2008a). Nesting 
abundance in the northern GBR is not directly counted throughout the 
nesting season largely because of the remoteness of the site and the 
sheer numbers of turtles that may nest on any given night. Raine 
Island, with estimates of annual nesting females varying from 4,000-
89,000 (Seminoff et al., 2004; NMFS and U.S. FWS, 2007; Chaloupka et 
al., 2008a; Limpus, 2009) (note the Status Review used an estimate of 
25,000 nesting females), Moulter Cay, with 15,965 nesting females 
(Limpus et al., 2003; Limpus, 2009), and the rest of the Capricorn 
Bunker Group with 31,249 nesting females (Limpus, 2009) represent the 
three sites with >10,000 nesting females. Heron Island is the index 
nesting beach for the southern GBR, and nearly every nesting female on 
Heron Island has been tagged since 1974 (Limpus and Nicholls, 2000). 
Heron Island (4,891 nesting females; Chaloupka et al., 2008a; Limpus, 
2009), Bramble Cay in the northern GBR (1,660; Limpus et al., 2003; 
Limpus 2009), and Huon, Leleizour and Fabre in New Caledonia (1,777; 
Limpus, 2009) represent the sites with 1,001-5,000 nesting females. 
There are three sites with 501-1,000: The Coral Sea (all sites; 1,000; 
Limpus, 2009), No. 8 Sandbank in northern GBR (637; Limpus et al., 
2003; Limpus 2009), and other northern GBR sites, including Murray 
Islands, other outer islands, most inner shelf cays and the mainland 
coast (535; Limpus 2009). Bamboo Bay in Vanuatu (165; MacKay and Petro, 
2013) and No. 7 Sandbank in the northern GBR represent the two sites 
with nesting females in the 101-500 category. The rest of the southern 
GBR (represented here as one site) is unquantified.
    The Raine Island and Heron Island sites both have high inter-annual 
variability and slightly increasing linear trends. These were the only 
two nesting areas for which 15 or more years of recent data are 
available for annual nesting female abundance, one of the standards for 
performing a PVA in the Status Review. Both show a continued increasing 
trend, though the Raine Island PVA indicates that there is a 9.1 
percent probability that this population will fall below the trend 
reference point (50 percent decline) at the end of 100 years, and a 0.4 
percent probability that it will fall below the absolute abundance 
reference (100 females per year) at the end of 100 years. However, 
extra caution must be used when interpreting results of the Raine 
Island PVA, because it only represents females observed during one 
sampling event on one night. The Heron Island PVA indicates that there 
is a 17.5 percent probability that the magnitude of adult females 
associated with Heron Island nesting will fall below the trend 
reference point (50 percent decline) at the end of 100 years, and an 
8.3 percent probability that this population will fall below the 
absolute abundance reference (100 females per year) at the end of 100 
years. It should be noted that PVA modeling has important limitations, 
and does not fully incorporate other key elements critical to the 
decision making process such as spatial structure or threats. It 
assumes all environmental and anthropogenic pressures will remain 
constant in the forecast period and it relies on nesting data alone.
    Although long robust time series are not available for New 
Caledonia, recent and historical accounts do not suggest a significant 
decline in abundance of green turtles nesting in New Caledonia (Maison 
et al., 2010). The trend at Vanuatu has not been documented (Maison et 
al., 2010).
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Southwest 
Pacific DPS has been extensive for larger nesting sites along the GBR, 
the Coral Sea, and New Caledonia; however, there are several smaller 
nesting sites in this region that still need to be sampled (e.g. 
Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea). Within this 
DPS, four regional genetic stocks have been identified in the Southwest 
Pacific Ocean; northern GBR, southern GBR, Coral Sea (Dethmers et al., 
2006; Jensen, 2010), and New Caledonia (Dethmers et al., 2006; Dutton 
et al., 2014). Mixed stock analysis of foraging grounds shows that 
green turtles from multiple nesting beach origins commonly mix in 
foraging grounds along the GBR and Torres Strait regions (Jensen, 
2010), but with the vast majority originating from nesting sites within 
the GBR. There is

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evidence of low frequency contribution from nesting sites outside the 
range of the DPS at some foraging areas.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, nesting beach monitoring 
along with flipper and satellite tagging show the spatial structure of 
this DPS is largely consistent with viable populations. Nesting can 
occur year-round in the most northerly nesting sites, but a distinct 
peak occurs in late December to early January for all Australian 
nesting sites. Foraging is widely dispersed throughout the range of 
this DPS (Limpus, 2009). There are various factors that lead to 
resilience in nesting in the Southwest Pacific DPS: it is widely 
dispersed throughout the region, there is more than one major nesting 
site, there is evidence of some connectivity between nesting sites 
within each of the four regional stocks but no connectivity among 
regional stocks, and there is continental and insular nesting. Nesting, 
however, is not evenly distributed throughout the range of the DPS, and 
some of the densest nesting occurs on Raine Island, which has habitat-
based threats.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Southwest Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    Destruction and modification of green turtle nesting habitat in the 
Southwest Pacific DPS result from beach erosion, beach pollution, 
removal of native vegetation, and planting of non-native vegetation, as 
well as natural environmental change (Limpus, 2009). Coastal 
development and construction, placement of erosion control structures 
and other barriers to nesting, and vehicular traffic minimally impact 
green turtles in this DPS (Limpus, 2009). Artificial light levels have 
increased significantly for green turtles in minor nesting sites of the 
northern GBR and remained relatively constant for the mainland of 
Australia (part of southern GBR) south of Gladstone (Kamrowski et al., 
2014). Most of the nests at the documented nesting sites within this 
DPS occur within the protected habitat, but there is still concern 
about the viability of nesting habitat (Limpus, 2009). Total 
productivity is limited by reduced nesting and hatching success, which 
at Raine Island appear to be depressed due to habitat issues. At Raine 
Island, mean nesting success (i.e., probability that a clutch will be 
laid when a turtle comes ashore for a nesting attempt) can be as low as 
3.3 percent (Limpus et al., 2007). Reduced recruitment can be caused by 
flooding of egg chambers by ground water, dry collapsing sand around 
egg chambers, and underlying rock which prevents appropriately deep egg 
chambers (Limpus et al., 2003). In the 1996 to 1997 breeding season, 
for example, flooding of nests caused a near total loss of viable eggs, 
and flooding has been a regular event in subsequent years (Limpus et 
al., 2003; Limpus, 2009). Death of nesting females occurs on Raine 
Island when they enter the elevated interior of the island due to 
crowding on the beach and return along a different route, encountering 
hazards such as small cliffs, over which they wander and roll onto 
their backs. Nightly mortality ranges from 0 to over 70 per night and 
is highest when nesting the previous night exceeds 1,000 (Limpus et 
al., 2003). Understanding the root cause of changes to Raine Island 
nesting habitat is challenging and is the aim of several Australian and 
State Government research and monitoring projects. These habitat-based 
threats (particularly related to hatchling production) constitute 
serious threats to this DPS, given the large abundance of turtles 
nesting in the northern GBR.
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Threats to habitat in the neritic and/or oceanic zones in the 
Southwest Pacific DPS include fishing practices, channel dredging, and 
marine pollution, although the internesting habitat adjacent to the 
nesting sites with the highest documented nesting levels in this DPS is 
protected by the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park and the 
adjacent Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Limpus, 2009). Protection for 
marine turtles in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area has been 
increasing since the mid-1990s (Dryden et al., 2008).
    In summary, we find that the Southwest Pacific DPS of the green 
turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its 
terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use 
practices as considered above in Factor A. Groundwater intrusion on 
high density beaches, artificial lighting, fishery practices, channel 
dredging, and marine pollution are continual threats to the persistence 
of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Southwest Pacific DPS turtles are vulnerable to harvest throughout 
Australia and neighboring countries such as New Caledonia, Fiji, 
Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia (Limpus, 2009). Cumulative 
annual harvest of green turtles that nest in Australia may be in the 
tens of thousands, and it appears likely that historical native harvest 
may have been in the same order of magnitude (Limpus, 2009). The 
Australian Native Title Act (1993) gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait 
Islanders a legal right to hunt sea turtles in Australia for 
traditional, communal, non-commercial purposes (Limpus, 2009). Although 
indigenous groups, governments, wildlife managers and scientists work 
together with the aim of sustainably managing turtle resources (Maison 
et al., 2010 citing K. Dobbs, Queensland Parks Authority, pers. comm., 
2010), traditional harvest remains a threat to green turtle 
populations. However, quantitative data are not sufficient to assess 
the degree of impact of harvest on the persistence of this DPS.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    Low levels of FP-associated turtle herpes virus is common in green 
turtles in some but not all semi-enclosed waters like Moreton Bay and 
Repulse Bay in Australia, more infrequent in nearshore open waters, and 
rare in off-shore coral reef habitats (Limpus, 2009). Mortality and 
recovery rates from this virus are not quantified but stranded, 
infected turtles are regularly encountered in south Queensland (Limpus, 
2009).
    Primary hatchling and egg predators of this DPS include crabs, 
birds, fish, and mammals. The magnitude of egg predation is not well 
documented, but within Australia the highest levels of vertebrate 
predation on eggs occur in other species, primarily loggerheads 
(Environment Australia, 2003). In Vanuatu, nest predation by feral dogs 
is a primary threat (Maison et al., 2010). Survivorship of hatchlings 
in the southern GBR during the transition from nest to sea (accounting 
for crab and bird predation) may be quite high (Limpus, 1971), but 
survivorship of hatchlings as they transition across the reef flat from 
the water's edge to deep water is likely considerably lower (Gyuris, 
1994 as cited in Limpus, 2009). Similar survivorship estimates are not 
available for the northern GBR, but survival during the nest to sea 
transition is expected to be low and variable, depending on the 
predator assemblage. Although many birds co-occur with sea turtle 
hatchlings in the northern GBR, only some birds, like the rufous night 
heron (Nycticorax caledonicus), are important predators (Limpus et al., 
2003). Terrestrial crabs that occur throughout the northern GBR have 
been observed feeding on turtle hatchlings and eggs, but crabs are 
generally of low density (Limpus et al., 2003). Shark

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predation on hatchlings as well as adults has been documented (Limpus 
et al., 2003).
    Although disease and predation are known to occur, quantitative 
data are not sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats 
on the persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Regulatory mechanisms are in place throughout the range of the DPS 
that address the direct capture of green turtles within this DPS. There 
are regulations, within this DPS, that specially address the harvest of 
green turtles while a few regulations are limited in that they only 
apply to certain times of year or allow for traditional use. Australia, 
New Caledonia and Vanuatu, the only countries with nesting aside from 
the Coral Sea Islands, which are a territory of Australia, have laws to 
protect green turtles. National protective legislation generally 
regulates intentional killing, possession, and trade (Limpus, 2009; 
Maison et al., 2010). In addition, at least 17 international treaties 
and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles 
in the Southwest Pacific DPS.
    The majority of nesting beaches (and often the associated 
internesting habitat) are protected in Australia, which is the country 
with the vast majority of the known nesting.
    In Australia, the conservation of green turtles is governed by a 
variety of national and territorial legislation. Conservation began 
with 1932 harvest restrictions on turtles and eggs in Queensland in 
October and November, south of 17[deg] S., and by 1968 the restriction 
extended all year long for all of Queensland (Limpus, 2009). As 
described in the preceding section, other conservation efforts include 
sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of bycatch reduction devices 
and safer dredging practices, improvement of shark control devices, and 
safer dredging practices, and the development of community based 
management plans with Indigenous groups. Australia has undertaken 
extensive marine spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and 
internesting habitat surrounding important nesting sites. The GBR's 
listing on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural 
Organization's World Heritage List in 1981 has increased the protection 
of habitats within the GBR World Heritage Area (Dryden et al., 2008).
    In New Caledonia, 1985 fishery regulations contained some regional 
sea turtle conservation measures, and these were expanded in 2008 to 
include the EEZ, the Main Island, and remote islands (Maison et al., 
2010). In Vanuatu, new fisheries regulations in 2009 prohibit the take, 
harm, capture, disturbance, possession, sale, purchase of or 
interference, import, or export of green turtles Maison et al., 2010).
    There are several regulatory mechanisms in place that should 
address incidental take of green turtles within this DPS; however, 
these regulatory mechanisms are not realizing their full potential 
because they are not enforced at the local level. The analysis of these 
existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place 
at their current levels.
    The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to address impacts 
to nesting beach habitat and overutilization is a continuing concern 
for this DPS. Other threats with inadequate regulatory mechanisms 
include incidental bycatch in fishing gear, boat strikes, port 
dredging, debris, national defense, and toxic compounds. Lack of 
implementation or enforcement by some nations renders regulatory 
mechanisms less effective than if they were implemented in a more 
consistent manner across the target region. It is unlikely that bycatch 
mortality can be sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in 
the near future because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries 
operating in the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing 
distribution and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated 
effective conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations 
on enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive 
bycatch reduction technologies.
    The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to 
specifically address threats to nesting beaches, eggs, hatchlings, 
juveniles, and adults through harvest and incidental harm occur 
throughout the range of the Southwest Pacific DPS. Some threats, such 
as inundation of nests at Raine Island and sea level rise, cannot be 
controlled through individual national legislation and persist as a 
threat to this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a 
threat to the survival of green turtles in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. 
The primary gear types involved in these interactions include trawl 
fisheries, longlines, drift nets, and set nets. These are employed by 
both artisanal and industrial fleets, and target a wide variety of 
species including prawns, crabs, sardines, and large pelagic fish.
    Nesting turtles of the Southwest Pacific DPS are vulnerable to the 
Queensland East Coast Trawl Fisheries and the Torres Strait Prawn 
Fishery, and to the extent other turtles forage west of Torres Strait, 
they are also vulnerable (Limpus, 2009). In 2000, the use of TEDs in 
the Northern Australian Prawn Fishery became mandatory, due in part to 
several factors: (1) Objectives of the Australian Recovery Plan for 
Marine Turtles, (2) requirements of the Australian Environment 
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act for Commonwealth fisheries 
to become ecologically sustainable, and (3) the 1996 U.S. import 
embargo on wild-caught prawns taken in a fishery without adequate 
turtle bycatch management practices (Robins et al., 2002).
    Australian and international longline fisheries capture green 
turtles. Precise estimates of international capture of Southwest 
Pacific Ocean DPS green turtles by the international longline fleet are 
not available, but they are thought to be larger than the Australian 
component (DEWHA, 2010). In addition to threats from prawn trawls, 
green turtles may face threats from other fishing gear (summarized from 
Limpus, 2009). Take of green turtles in gill nets (targeting 
barramundi, salmon, mackerel, and shark) in Queensland and the Northern 
Territory has been observed but not quantified. Untended ``ghost'' 
fishing gear that has been intentionally discarded or lost due to 
weather conditions may entangle and kill many hundreds of green turtles 
annually.
b. Shark Control Programs
    Green turtles are captured in shark control programs, but protocols 
are in place to reduce the impact. The Queensland Shark Control Program 
is managed by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and 
Fisheries (Limpus, 2009) and has been operating since 1962 (Gribble et 
al., 1998). In 1992, their operations began to be modified to reduce 
mortality of non-target species (Gribble et al., 1998). Observed green 
turtle annual mortality during 1998-2003 was 2.7 per year (Limpus, 
2009). Green turtles have been captured in the New South Wales shark-
meshing program since 1937, but total capture for all turtle species 
from 1950 through 1993 is roughly five or fewer turtles per year (Krogh 
and Reid, 1996).

[[Page 15318]]

Post-release survival does not appear to have been monitored in any of 
the monitoring programs.
c. Boat Strikes and Port Dredging
    The magnitude of mortality from boat strikes may be in the high 
tens to low hundreds per year in Queensland (Limpus, 2009). This threat 
affects juvenile and adult turtles and may increase with increasing 
high-speed boat traffic in coastal waters. The magnitude of mortality 
from port dredging in Queensland may be in the order of tens of turtles 
or less per year (Limpus, 2009).
d. Toxic Compounds and Marine Debris
    Toxic compounds and bioaccumulative chemicals threaten green 
turtles in the Southwest Pacific DPS. Poor health conditions 
(debilitation and death) have been reported in the southern Gulf of 
Carpentaria for green turtles, many of which had unusual black fat 
(Kwan and Bell, 2003; Limpus, 2009). Heavy metal concentrations have 
also been reported in Australia (Dight and Gladstone, 1994; Reiner, 
1994; Gordon et al., 1998; Limpus, 2009), but the health impact has not 
been quantified. The magnitude of mortality from ingestion of synthetic 
material in Queensland is expected to be at least tens of turtles 
annually (Limpus, 2009).
e. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Green turtle populations could be affected by the effects of 
climate change on nesting grounds (Fuentes et al., 2011) as well as in 
marine habitats (Hamann et al., 2007; Hawkes et al., 2009). Potential 
effects of climate change include changes in nest site selection, range 
shifts, diet shifts, and loss of nesting habitat due to sea level rise 
(Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). Climate change will 
likely also cause higher sand temperatures leading to increased 
feminization of surviving hatchlings (i.e., changes in sex ratio), and 
some beaches will likely experience lethal incubation temperatures that 
will result in losses of complete hatchling cohorts (Glen and 
Mrosovsky, 2004; Fuentes et al., 2010; Fuentes et al., 2011). While sea 
turtles have survived past eras that have included significant 
temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen 
at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may 
face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts 
from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to 
become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    In a study of the northern GBR nesting assemblages, Bramble Cay and 
Milman Islet were vulnerable to sea-level rise, and almost all sites in 
the study were expected to be vulnerable to increased temperatures by 
2070 (Fuentes et al., 2011). Similar data are not available for other 
nesting sites.
    The Southwest Pacific DPS contains some atolls, as well as coral 
reef areas that share some ecological characteristics with atolls. 
Barnett and Adger (2003) state that coral reefs, which are essential to 
the formation and maintenance of the islets located around the rim of 
an atoll, are highly sensitive to sudden changes in sea-surface 
temperature. Thus, climate change impacts could have long-term impacts 
on green turtle ecology in the Southwest Pacific DPS, but it is not 
possible to project the impacts at this point in time.
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that 
occurs throughout the range of the DPS, particularly bycatch mortality 
of green turtles from pelagic longline, drift nets, set net, and trawl 
fisheries, is a continued risk to this DPS. Additional threats from 
boat strikes, marine pollution, changes likely to result from climate 
change, and cyclonic storm events are pose an increasing risk to the 
persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS

    Conservation efforts for the Southwest Pacific DPS have resulted in 
sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of bycatch reduction 
devices, improvement of shark control devices, and safer dredging 
practices. Australia, in particular, has undertaken extensive marine 
spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and internesting habitat 
surrounding some of the largest and most important nesting sites in the 
DPS.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Southwest Pacific 
DPS

    The Southwest Pacific DPS is characterized by relatively high 
levels of green turtle nesting abundance (>80,000 nesting females) and 
contains the GBR, the largest coral reef system in the world, as well 
as continental coastline, islands, and atolls. The trends in nesting 
female abundance at the two index beaches (Raine Island and Heron 
Island, Australia) are stable or increasing. The spatial structure of 
this DPS extends over a large geographic area, with several large 
nesting sites spread within the range of this DPS, and includes both 
continental and insular nesting, thereby providing a level of habitat 
diversity and population resilience. This region has high genetic 
diversity resulting from a mix of highly divergent lineages, some of 
which are among the oldest lineages found in C. mydas. There are 
concerns about climate change in general and the nesting habitat at 
Raine Island in particular, where nests are sometimes flooded and 
nesting female mortality can range from 1-70 per night due to 
overcrowding.
    The threats to this Southwest Pacific DPS include directed harvest, 
incidental bycatch in fisheries, shark control programs, boat strikes, 
port dredging, debris, activities associated with national defense, 
disease, predation, toxic compounds, and climate change. Conservation 
efforts have resulted in sweeping take prohibitions, implementation of 
bycatch reduction devices, improvement of shark control devices, and 
safer dredging practices. Australia, in particular, has undertaken 
extensive marine spatial planning to protect nesting turtles and 
internesting habitat surrounding important nesting sites. In the 
southern GBR threats are well managed, harvest is low, and the 
population increasing; however, in the northern GBR there are concerns 
for Raine Island and harvest is a cause for concern. In the Coral Sea 
there are few known threats and it is remote and well managed from 
human threats. Although the DPS shows strength in many of the critical 
elements, there are still concerns about numerous threats including 
climate change and habitat degradation.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Southwest Pacific DPS 
as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of high nesting abundance and geographically 
widespread nesting at a diversity of sites; however, the continued 
threats are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future.

XV. Central South Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central South Pacific 
DPS

    The range of the Central South Pacific DPS extends north and east 
of New Zealand to include a longitudinal expanse of 7,500 km--from 
Easter Island, Chile in the east to Fiji in the west, and encompasses 
American Samoa, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, 
Tokelau, Tonga, and Tuvalu. Its open ocean polygonal boundary endpoints 
are (clockwise from the northwest-most extent): 9[deg] N., 175[deg] W. 
to 9[deg] N., 125[deg] W. to 40[deg] S., 96[deg] W. to 40[deg] S., 
176[deg] E., to 13[deg] S., 171[deg] E., and back to 9[deg] N., 
175[deg] W. (Figure 2).
    Nesting occurs sporadically throughout the geographic distribution

[[Page 15319]]

of the DPS at low levels. Green turtles departing nesting grounds 
within the range of this DPS travel throughout the South Pacific Ocean. 
Post-nesting green turtles tagged in the early 1990s from Rose Atoll 
returned to foraging grounds in Fiji and French Polynesia (Craig et 
al., 2004). Nesting females tagged in French Polynesia migrated west 
after nesting to various sites in the western South Pacific (Tuato'o-
Bartley et al., 1993). In addition to nesting beaches, green turtles 
are found in coastal waters (White and Galbraith, 2013; White, 2013), 
but in-water information for this DPS is particularly limited.
    Based on available data, we estimate there are approximately 2,800 
nesting females in this DPS at 59 nesting sites. The most abundant 
nesting area was Scilly Atoll, French Polynesia, which in the early 
1990s was estimated to host 300-400 nesting females annually (Balazs et 
al., 1995), and has an estimated total nesting female abundance of 
1,050 breeding females, roughly one-third of all nesting females in the 
DPS (although this number is dated, it is used in the Status Review as 
it is the most recent data and the best available). However, Scilly 
Atoll was last monitored in the early 1990s (Balazs et al., 1995), and 
abundance has reportedly declined as a result of commercial 
exploitation (Conservation International Pacific Islands Program, 
2013). There are six other sites with 101-500 nesting females according 
to the best available data, although the estimate for Nukunonu, Tokelau 
is from the 1970s. Many nesting areas (21 of 58, or 36 percent) only 
have qualitative information that nesting is present, indicating that 
there is still much to learn about green turtle nesting in this region. 
As these unquantified nesting sites most likely each have a female 
abundance in the 1-100 range, their collective sum is probably fewer 
than 700 nesting females. Historical baseline nesting information in 
general is not widely available in this region, but exploitation and 
trade of green turtles throughout the region is well-known (Groombridge 
and Luxmoore, 1989).
    No long-term monitoring programs are currently available at beaches 
in this population, and no single site has had standardized surveys for 
even 5 continuous years. Most nesting areas are in remote, low-lying 
atolls that are logistically difficult to access. Partial and 
inconsistent monitoring from the largest nesting site in this DPS, 
Scilly Atoll, suggests significant nesting declines from persistent and 
illegal commercial harvesting (Petit, 2013). Historically, 100-500 
females nested annually at Canton Island, Kiribati (Balazs, 1975b) but, 
as of 2002, it had an estimated 29 nesting females. Nesting abundance 
is reported to be stable to increasing at Tongareva Atoll (White and 
Galbraith, 2013). It is also reported to be stable to increasing at 
Rose Atoll, Swains Atoll, Tetiaroa, Tikehau, and Maiao. However, these 
sites are of relatively low abundance and in sum represent less than 16 
percent of the population abundance at Scilly Atoll alone.
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central 
South Pacific is limited and many of the small isolated nesting sites 
that characterize this region have not been covered. Mitochondrial DNA 
studies indicate there are at least two genetic stocks in American 
Samoa and French Polynesia (Dutton et al., 2014), which have unique 
haplotypes (Dutton et al., 2014). Flipper tag returns and satellite 
tracking studies demonstrate that post-nesting turtles travel the 
complete geographic breadth of the range of this DPS, from French 
Polynesia in the east to Fiji in the west, and sometimes even slightly 
beyond (Tuato'o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et al., 2004; Maison et 
al., 2010; White, 2012), even as far as the Philippines (Trevor, 2009). 
Limited demographic information suggests a low level of population 
structuring within this DPS (Tuato'o-Bartley et al., 1993; Craig et 
al., 2004; White, 2012; White and Galbraith, 2013).
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the Central South Pacific 
has a broad geographical area, but the nesting sites themselves exhibit 
little diversity. Most nesting sites are located in low-lying coral 
atolls or oceanic islands and thus are subject to loss of habitat due 
to sea level rise. Local nesting density is sparse spatially, typically 
spread over >10 km stretches of beach and is also low in terms of 
abundance. Only one nesting site (Scilly Atoll with 1,050 females; 
Balazs et al., 1995) has a nesting female abundance exceeding 250, and 
this estimate is 20 years old. Foraging areas are mostly coral reef 
ecosystems, with seagrass beds in Tonga and Fiji being a notable 
exception.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central South Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    Nesting in the Central South Pacific DPS is geographically 
widespread with the majority of nesting sites being remote and not 
easily accessed, and at low-lying oceanic islands or coral atolls. The 
largest nesting site for this DPS is believed to be at Scilly Atoll in 
French Polynesia. Balazs et al. (1995) report that the earliest human 
settlement at Scilly Atoll in French Polynesia appears to have occurred 
around 1952. It is unclear how much of an effect human habitation of 
the atoll has had, or is having, on the nesting habitat for the turtle.
    In the populated islands of American Samoa, such as Tutuila, 
continuous incremental loss of habitat has occurred due to varied 
activities of human populations (Tuato'o-Bartley et al., 1993; NMFS and 
USFWS, 1998; Saili, 2005). Indeed, human population growth and 
attendant village expansion and development on Tutuila Island have 
resulted in decreasing usage of some Tutuila beaches by nesting turtles 
and pre-emption of some green turtle nesting beaches (Tuato'o-Bartley 
et al., 1993). Turtles on Tutuila, possibly disoriented by land-based 
lights, are subject to mortality from cars (A. Tagarino, American Samoa 
DMWR, pers. comm., 2013). Lighting is a potential problem affecting the 
quality of the nesting habitat on Ofu nesting beach as well (Tagarino, 
2012). The main nesting site in American Samoa is Rose Atoll, which is 
uninhabited and therefore without current threats to terrestrial 
habitat.
    In Samoa, degradation of habitat through coastal development and 
natural disasters as cited in SPREP (SPREP, 2012) remains a threat (J. 
Ward, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa, pers. 
comm., 2013).
    In Kiribati, historical destruction (bulldozing) of the vegetation 
zone next to the nesting beach on Canton Island in the Phoenix Islands 
occurred during World War II and may have negatively affected the 
availability of a portion of nesting beach area (Balazs, 1975). The 
remoteness of these islands and minimal amount of study of sea turtles 
in this area makes recent information on nesting beach condition and 
threats difficult to obtain.
    In the Cook Islands, the major nesting site for green turtles, 
Tongareva Atoll, is uninhabited and there are not likely threats 
related to development or human disturbance (White, 2012b). However, 
elsewhere in the Cook Islands, sand extraction (for building purposes) 
and building developments are reported as potential threats to sea 
turtles; for instance, the best potential site at Tauhunu motu on 
Manihiki appears to be no longer used for nesting (White, 2012a). 
Weaver (1996) notes that sea turtles are negatively affected in Fiji by 
modification of nesting beaches. Coastal erosion in Tonga and Tuvalu is 
reported

[[Page 15320]]

as a major problem for turtle nesting (Alefaio and Alefaio, 2006; Bell 
et al., 2010).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Little is known regarding the status of the foraging habitat and 
threats found in French Polynesia (Balazs et al., 1995). NMFS and USFWS 
(1998) noted that degradation of coral reef habitats on the south side 
of Tutuila Island, American Samoa is occurring due to sedimentation 
from erosion on agricultural slopes and natural disasters. Ship 
groundings are also potential threats to habitat in American Samoa. For 
example, a ship grounded at Rose Atoll in 1993, damaging reef habitat 
and spilling 100,000 gallons of fuel and other contaminants (USFWS, 
2014). In the nearby neighboring country of Samoa, coastal and marine 
areas have been negatively impacted by pollution (Government of Samoa, 
1998).
    Fiji appears to be an important foraging area for green turtles of 
this DPS. Sea turtles have been negatively affected by alteration and 
degradation of foraging habitat and to some extent pollution or 
degradation of nearshore ecosystems (Batibasaga et al., 2006). Jit 
(2007) also suggests that sea turtles in Fiji are threatened by 
degradation of reefs and seagrass beds. Given that turtles outside of 
Fiji appear to use this foraging habitat, negative effects to this 
foraging area have important implications for the entire DPS. Tourism 
development on the eastern coast of Viti Levu could negatively impact 
sea turtle foraging sites (Jit, 2007).
    In Tonga, marine habitat is being affected by anthropogenic 
activities. Heavy sedimentation and poor water quality have killed 
patch reefs; high nutrients and high turbidity are negatively impacting 
seagrasses; and human activities are negatively impacting mangroves 
(Prescott et al., 2004).
    Although Palmyra Atoll is now protected, it was altered by U.S. 
military activities during World War II through dredging, connection, 
and expansion of islets (Sterling et al., 2013).
    In summary, as to Factor A, we find that the Central South Pacific 
DPS of the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in 
both its terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water 
use practices. Pollution persists and loss of beach due to coastal 
development is significant threats to this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Human consumption has had a significant impact on green turtles in 
the Central South Pacific DPS. Hirth and Rohovit (1992) report that 
exploitation of green turtles for eggs, meat, and parts has occurred 
throughout the South Pacific Region, including American Samoa, Cook 
Islands, Fiji Islands, French Polynesia, and Kiribati. Allen (2007) 
notes that in Remote Oceania (which includes this DPS) sea turtles were 
important in traditional societies but, despite this, have experienced 
severe declines since human colonization approximately 2,800 years ago. 
At western contact, some of the islands supported sizable human 
populations resulting in intense pressures on local coastal fisheries.
    At Scilly Atoll in French Polynesia local residents (approximately 
20 to 40 people) are allowed to take 50 adults per year from a nesting 
population that could be as low as 300-400 (M. S. Allen, 2007; Balazs 
et al., 1995). Balazs et al. (1995) reported that declines in nesting 
green turtles at the important areas of Scilly, Motu-one, and Mopelia, 
among the highest density nesting sites in the DPS, have occurred due 
to commercial exploitation for markets in Tahiti, as well as 
exploitation due to human habitation. Illegal harvest of sea turtles 
has been reported for French Polynesia by Te Honu Tea (2007). Brikke 
(2009) conducted a study on Bora Bora and Maupiti islands and reported 
that sea turtle meat remains in high demand and that fines are rarely 
imposed.
    Directed take in the marine environment has been a significant 
source of mortality in American Samoa, and turtle populations have 
seriously declined (Tuato'o-Bartley et al., 1993; NMFS and USFWS, 
1998). Although take of sea turtle eggs or sea turtles is illegal (the 
ESA applies in this territory), turtles from American Samoa migrate to 
other countries (e.g., Fiji, Samoa, French Polynesia) where turtle 
consumption is legal or occurs illegally (Craig, 1993; Tuato'o-Bartley 
et al., 1993).
    Turtles have been traditionally harvested for food and shells in 
the country of Samoa, and over-exploitation of turtles has negatively 
affected local populations (Government of Samoa, 1998). Unsustainable 
harvest (direct take for meat) remains a major threat to green turtles 
in Samoa (J. Ward, Government of Samoa, pers. comm. 2013).
    In Fiji, Weaver (1996) identified the contemporary harvest and 
consumption of turtles by humans for eggs, meat, and shells as a 
significant threat for sea turtles. This includes commercial harvest, 
as well as subsistence and ceremonial harvest. In Kiribati (e.g., 
Phoenix Islands), an unknown number of turtles are caught as bycatch on 
longlines and eaten (Obura and Stone, 2002). Poaching has been reported 
for Caroline Atoll, but to what extent it currently occurs is unknown 
(Teeb'aki, 1992).
    In Tonga, Bell et al. (1994) report that collection of eggs for 
subsistence occurs. Prescott et al. (2004) and Havea and MacKay (2009) 
also note that it is still a practice on islands where turtles nest. 
Bell et al. (2009) report that in Tonga sea turtles are harvested and 
live turtles are often seen transported from outer islands to the main 
island, Tongatapu. It is unclear if this harvest is sustainable, 
especially given the increased catch rates in Tungua for the commercial 
market (Havea and MacKay, 2009).
    In Tuvalu, harvest of sea turtles for their meat has been cited as 
a major threat (Alefaio and Alefaio, 2006; Ono and Addison, 2009). In 
the Cook Islands, turtles are sometimes killed during nesting at 
Palmerston and Rakahanga, while nesting and fishing on Nassau, and 
while nesting at Manihiki, Tongareva, and probably at other atolls 
(White, 2012). In Tokelau, Balazs (1983) reported human take of both 
sea turtle eggs from nests and adult males and females while 
copulating, nesting, or swimming (by harpoon).
    In summary, within Factor B current legal and illegal collection of 
eggs and harvest of turtles throughout the Central South Pacific DPS 
persist as a threat to this DPS. The threat to the stability of green 
turtle populations posed by harvesting nesting females is particularly 
significant due to the small number of nesting females within this DPS.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    While FP is recorded elsewhere in the Pacific, it does not appear 
to be a threat in the Central South Pacific DPS (Utzurrum, 2002; A. 
Tagarino, American Samoa DMWR, pers. comm., 2013). The best available 
data suggest that current nest and hatchling predation on several 
Central South Pacific DPS nesting beaches and in-water habitats is a 
potential threat to this DPS.
    Predation of green turtles (e.g., by sharks) occurs in French 
Polynesia; however, the extent of such predation is unknown. In 
American Samoa, Polynesian rats (Rattus exultans) were an issue at Rose 
Atoll prior to a 1993 eradication (USFWS, 2014), but no longer appear 
to be a problem. Crabs are

[[Page 15321]]

reported to eat hatchlings at Rose Atoll (Ponwith, 1990; Balazs, 1993; 
Pendleton pers. comm., USFWS, 2013). On Swains Island, feral pig 
activity has been documented and may be a threat to nests on the island 
(Tagarino and Utzurrum, 2010). Predation of green turtles by sharks has 
been reported at Rose Atoll and Palmyra Atoll; however, the extent of 
such predation is unknown (Graeffe, 1873; Sachet, 1954; Balazs, 1999; 
Sterling et al., 2013). The main threat to wildlife on Rose Atoll is 
thought to be the introduction (or possible reintroduction) of exotic 
species (K. Van Houtan, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013).
    In Samoa, feral animal predation on turtle nests and eggs remains a 
threat (SPREP, 2012; J. Ward, Government of Samoa, pers. comm., 2013). 
In other areas, predation is likely a contributing threat to green 
turtles. Introduced animals, including feral cats, rats, and feral 
pigs, are reported problems for wildlife (Teeb'aki, 1992) and may 
threaten green turtles on certain islands in Kiribati such as 
Kiritimati. In Tokelau, identified predators that may constitute a 
terrestrial threat to turtles include hermit crabs, ghost crabs, 
Polynesian rats, frigate birds (Fregata ariel, F. minor), and reef 
herons (Egretta sacra; Balazs, 1983). Feral pigs, rats, crabs, possibly 
some sea birds, and large fish are potential predators of sea turtles 
(eggs and hatchlings) in the Cook Islands (White, 2012). Pigs are 
reported on Mauke, although their impact on sea turtles is unquantified 
(Bradshaw and Bradshaw, 2012).
    Although predation is known to occur, quantitative data are not 
sufficient to assess the degree of impact of these threats on the 
persistence of this DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Lack of regulatory mechanisms and/or adequate implementation and 
enforcement is a threat to the Central South Pacific DPS. The analysis 
of these existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain 
in place at their current levels. Regulatory mechanisms that address 
the direct capture of green turtles for most of the countries within 
this DPS specifically address the harvest of green turtles, while a few 
regulations are limited in that they only apply during certain times of 
the year or allow for traditional harvest.
    Numerous countries have reserves (French Polynesia, Kiribati, 
Samoa, and the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument), 
national legislation, and/or local regulations protecting turtles. 
These include the foreign Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, 
Kiribati, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and the U.S. 
territories of Wake, Baker, Howland and Jarvis Islands, Kingman Reef 
and Palmyra Atoll. In some places such as Tokelau and Wallis and 
Futuna, information on turtle protection was either unclear or could 
not be found. At least 17 international treaties and/or regulatory 
mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Central 
South Pacific DPS.
    Green turtles in American Samoa are fully protected under the ESA. 
Green turtles are also protected by the Fishing and Hunting Regulations 
for American Samoa (24.0934), which prohibit the import, export, sale, 
possession, transport, or trade of sea turtles or their parts and take 
(as defined by the ESA) and carry additional penalties for violations 
at the local government level (Maison et al., 2010). Additionally, an 
American Samoa Executive Order in 2003 established the territorial 
waters of American Samoa as a sanctuary for sea turtles and marine 
mammals, in 2003; American Samoa declared its submerged lands a Whale 
and Turtle Sanctuary. It is not known how effective implementation of 
these protections is in American Samoa. The NOAA National Marine 
Sanctuary of American Samoa is comprised of six protected areas, 
covering 35,175 km\2\ of nearshore coral reef and offshore open ocean 
waters across the Samoan Archipelago. Additionally, Rose Atoll Marine 
National Monument was established in 2009 and encompasses the Rose 
Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. These protected areas should provide 
some level of protection for green turtles and their habitat; however 
the effectiveness of these monuments for this species is unknown.
    Regulatory mechanisms are apparently inadequate to curb a continued 
loss of nesting habitat and degradation of foraging habitat due to 
human activities and coastal development on populated islands of 
American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Fiji, and the Cook Islands. 
Turtles continue to be harvested for food and shells, and are used in 
commercial, subsistence, and ceremonial capacities. Rudrud (2010) 
suggests that traditional laws in Polynesia may have historically 
limited green turtle consumption to certain people (chiefs, priests) or 
special ceremonies. However, as the societies of this region have been 
affected by Western culture and modernization of traditions have been 
altered; traditional laws have lost their effectiveness in limiting 
negative effects of harvest on sea turtles.
    There are protected areas, within this DPS, that should provide 
some level of protection for green turtles and their habitat; however 
the effectiveness of these monuments for this species is unknown. The 
Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to 
specifically address coastal development, marine pollution, sea level 
rise, and effects of climate change that continue to contribute to the 
extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a 
significant threat to the survival of green sea turtles throughout the 
Central South Pacific DPS. The primary gear types involved in these 
interactions include longlines and nets.
    Incidental capture in line, trap, or net fisheries presents a 
threat to sea turtles in American Samoa (Tagarino, 2011). Subsistence 
gill nets have been known to occasionally catch green turtles. 
Additionally, longline fishing is considered a threat to Central South 
Pacific green turtles. In 2010, the American Samoa longline fishery was 
estimated to have interacted with an average of 33 green turtles 
annually, with a 92 percent mortality rate, triggering reinitiation of 
a section 7 consultation; the current incidental take statement allows 
45 green sea turtle interactions (41 mortalities) every three years 
(http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/Library/PUBDOCs/biological_opinions/622-NMFS-ASLL_Am_to_Pelagics_FMP_Biop_FINAL_9-16-10.pdf).
    In Fiji, green turtles are killed in commercial fishing nets; 
however, the exact extent and intensity of this threat is unknown 
(Rupeni et al. 2002). Jit (2007) and McCoy (2008) report that green 
turtle bycatch is occurring in longline tuna fisheries in Fiji. The 
exact level of interaction with green turtles is unclear.
    In the Cook Islands, longline fishery regulations require fishers 
to adopt the use of circle hooks and to follow ``releasing hooked 
turtles'' guidelines (Goodwin, 2008), although it is unclear how 
effective these regulations are. McCoy (2008) suggests that sea turtle 
bycatch is occurring in tuna fisheries in the Cook Islands; however, no 
information is provided on possible extent of sea turtle take or the 
species that are possibly taken.

[[Page 15322]]

b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    Direct or indirect disposal of anthropogenic waste introduces 
potentially lethal materials into green turtle foraging habitats. Green 
turtles will ingest plastic, monofilament fishing line, and other 
marine debris (Bjorndal et al., 1994), and the effects may be lethal or 
non-lethal, resulting in varying effects that may increase the 
probability of death (Balazs, 1985; Carr, 1987; McCauley and Bjorndal, 
1999). Marine debris presents a threat to green turtles in American 
Samoa (Aeby et al., 2008; USFWS, 2014; Tagarino et al., 2008). It is 
potentially hazardous to adults and hatchlings and is present at Rose 
Atoll (USFWS, 2014). It is also a threat at nearby inhabited islands.
    Pago Pago Harbor in American Samoa is seriously polluted, and 
uncontrolled effluent contaminants have impaired water quality in some 
coastal waters (Aeby et al., 2008). Effects to coastal habitat (e.g., 
reefs) from sedimentation related to development and runoff are 
significant potential threats in American Samoa, and human population 
pressures place strains on shoreline resources (Aeby et al., 2008).
    Ship groundings (e.g., at Rose Atoll in 1993) that damage reef 
habitat and spill fuel and other contaminants, degradation of coastal 
waters due to silt-laden runoff from land and nutrient enrichment from 
human discharges and wastes, and contamination by heavy metals and 
other contaminants are threats to green turtles in American Samoa (NMFS 
and USFWS, 1998; USFWS, 2014).
    In Fiji, Weaver (1996) identified potential threats to sea turtles 
from heavy metals and industrial waste, organic loadings in coastal 
areas, plastic bags, and leachate poisoning of seagrass foraging areas. 
In the Cook Islands, White (2012) noted possible issues with oil, tar, 
or toxic chemicals and terrestrial run-off into lagoons at Rarotonga, 
and Bradshaw and Bradshaw (2012) note pollution (e.g., accumulation of 
plastics on the beach) on Mauke (M.White, unpubl. data, 
www.honucookislands .com).
c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Climate change has the potential to greatly affect green turtles. 
Potential impacts of climate change on green turtles include loss of 
beach habitat from rising sea levels, repeated inundation of nests, 
skewed hatchling sex ratios from rising incubation temperatures, and 
abrupt disruption of ocean currents used for natural dispersal (Fish et 
al., 2005, 2008; Hawkes et al., 2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
    A recent study of 27 atoll islands in the central Pacific 
(including Kiribati and Tuvalu), demonstrated that 14 percent of 
islands decreased in area over a 19-60 year time span (Webb and Kench, 
2010). This occurred in a region considered most vulnerable to sea-
level rise (Nicholls and Cazenave, 2010) during a period in which sea-
levels rose 2 mm per year.
    Catastrophic natural environmental events, such as cyclones or 
hurricanes, may affect green turtles in the Central South Pacific 
Ocean, and may exacerbate issues such as decreased available habitat 
due to sea level rise. These types of events may disrupt green turtle 
nesting activity (Van Houtan and Bass, 2007), even if just on a 
temporary scale.
    In summary, within Factor E, we find that incidental fishery 
bycatch, interactions with recreational and commercial vessels, marine 
pollution as well as the increasing threat of climate change, and major 
storm events are expected to be an increasing threat to the persistence 
of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the Central South Pacific DPS

    There are many islands and atolls in the range of this DPS spread 
across an expansive area. Conservation efforts, such as establishment 
of protected areas, exist that are beneficial to green turtles.
    It is unclear how well conservation efforts such as protected areas 
and the national legislation relating to green turtles are working. It 
appears that the remoteness of some of the areas is providing the most 
conservation protection for certain threats.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central South 
Pacific DPS

    The Central South Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically 
widespread nesting at very low levels of abundance, mostly in remote 
low-lying oceanic atolls. Nesting is reported in 57 different 
locations, although some abundance numbers are 20 years old or older. 
By far the highest nesting abundance estimate is from Scilly Atoll, 
French Polynesia (1,050 nesting females), but this estimate is from 
1991 data and abundance of nesting females has reportedly significantly 
declined in the past 30 years as a result of commercial exploitation. 
There are also no long-term monitoring programs that have been active 
in this DPS for even a 5-year period. While the dispersed location of 
nesting sites might provide a level of habitat diversity and population 
resilience which reduces overall extinction risk, this contribution is 
reduced by the low population size of these sites (only Scilly Atoll 
has over 225 nesting females) and overall population size of fewer than 
3,000 nesting females.
    Chronic and persistent illegal harvest is a concern in the Central 
South Pacific DPS, and sea level rise is a threat that is expected to 
increase in the future. Indeed, climate change may affect this DPS more 
than any other because nearly all nesting sites exist on low-lying 
atolls. Sea level rise is expected to exacerbate beach erosion, 
inundations, and storm surge on small islands (IPCC, 2007). The loss of 
habitat as a result of climate change could be accelerated due to a 
combination of other environmental and oceanographic changes such as an 
increase in the intensity of storms and/or changes in prevailing 
currents, both of which could lead to increased beach loss via erosion 
(Kennedy et al., 2002; Meehl et al., 2007).
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central South Pacific 
DPS as endangered. Based on its low nesting abundance and exposure to 
increasing threats, we find that this DPS is presently in danger of 
extinction throughout its range.

XVI. Central North Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the Central North Pacific 
DPS

    The range of the Central North Pacific DPS covers the Hawaiian 
Archipelago and Johnston Atoll. It is bounded by a four-sided polygon 
with open ocean extents reaching to 41[deg] N., 169[deg] E. in the 
northwest corner, 41[deg] N., 143[deg] W. in the northeast, 9[deg] N., 
125[deg] W. in southeast, and 9[deg] N., 175[deg] W. in the southwest 
(Figure 2). The Hawaiian Archipelago is the most geographically 
isolated island group on the planet. From 1965 to 2013, 17,536 green 
turtles were tagged, including all post-pelagic size classes from 
juveniles to adults. With only three exceptions, the 7,360 recaptures 
of these tagged turtles have been made within the Hawaiian Archipelago. 
The three outliers involved a recovery in Japan, one in the Marshall 
Islands and one in the Philippines.
    The principal nesting site for green turtles in the Central North 
Pacific DPS is FFS, where 96 percent of the population (3,710 of 3,846 
nesting females) currently nests (Balazs, 1980; Lipman and Balazs, 
1983). However, nesting was historically abundant at

[[Page 15323]]

various sites across the archipelago as recently as 1920 (Kittinger et 
al., 2013), and remnant nesting aggregations may have existed in the 
MHIs as recently as the 1930s, but were no longer present in the 1970s 
(Balazs, 1976). Current nesting by green turtles occurs in low numbers 
(3-36 nesting females at any one site) throughout the Northwest 
Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) at Laysan, Lisianski, Pearl and Hermes Reef, 
and very uncommonly at Midway. Since 2000, green turtle nesting on the 
MHI has been identified in low numbers (1-24) on seven islands (Frey et 
al., 2013; Kittinger et al., 2013; NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries 
Science Center, unpublished data, 2013). Green turtles in the Central 
North Pacific DPS bask on beaches throughout the NWHI and in the MHI.
    Since nesting surveys were initiated in 1973, there has been a 
marked increase in annual green turtle nesting at East Island, FFS, 
where approximately 50 percent of the nesting on FFS occurs (Balazs and 
Chaloupka, 2004, 2006). During the first 5 years of monitoring (1973-
1977), the mean annual nesting abundance was 83 females, and during the 
most recent 5 years of monitoring (2009-2012), the mean annual nesting 
abundance was 464 females (Balazs and Chaloupka, 2006; G. Balazs, NMFS, 
unpublished data). This increase over the last 40 years corresponds to 
an annual increase of 4.8 percent.
    Information on in-water abundance trends is consistent with the 
increase in nesting (Balazs, 2000; Balazs et al., 2005; Balazs et al., 
1996). This linkage is to be expected since genetics, satellite 
telemetry, and direct observation show that green turtles from the 
nesting beaches in the FFS nesting site remain resident to foraging 
pastures throughout the archipelago (Balazs, 1976; Craig and Balazs, 
1995; Keuper-Bennett and Bennet, 2000; P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 
2013). The number of immature green turtles residing in foraging areas 
of the eight MHI has increased (Balazs et al., 1996). In addition, 
although the causes are not totally clear, there has been a dramatic 
increase in the number of basking turtles in the Hawaiian Islands over 
the last 2 decades, both in the southern foraging areas of the main 
islands (Balazs et al., 1996) as well as at northern foraging areas at 
Midway Atoll (Balazs et al., 2005).
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the Central 
North Pacific DPS has been extensive and representative, given that 
there are few nesting populations in this region. Results of mtDNA 
analysis indicate a low level of spatial structure with regard to minor 
nesting around the MHI and the NWHI, and the same haplotypes occur 
throughout the range of the DPS. Within the NWHI, studies show no 
significant differentiation (based on mtDNA haplotype frequency) 
between FFS and Laysan Island (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2013). An 
analysis by Frey et al. (2013) of the low level of scattered nesting on 
the MHI (Moloka`i, Maui, O`ahu, Lana`i and Kaua`i; mtDNA and nDNA) 
showed that nesting in the MHI might be attributed to a relatively 
small number of females that appear to be related to each other, and 
demographically isolated from FFS. Frey et al. (2013) suggest that the 
nesting population at the MHI may be the result of a few recent 
founders that originated from the FFS breeding population. Demographic 
studies of green turtles do not reveal any structuring of traits within 
the DPS.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, because nesting in the 
Central North Pacific DPS is unusually concentrated at one site, there 
is little diversity in nesting areas. Balazs (Balazs, 1980) reported 
that the distribution of green turtles in the Hawaiian Archipelago has 
been reduced within historical times, and Kittinger et al. (2013) 
suggest that a significant constriction in the spatial distribution of 
important reproduction sites presents a challenge to the population's 
future and makes this DPS highly vulnerable. Further, the primary 
nesting site, FFS, is a low-lying coral atoll that is susceptible to 
erosion, geomorphological changes and sea level rise, and has already 
lost significant nesting area (Baker et al., 2006).

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the Central North Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of its Habitat or Range

a. Terrestrial Zone
    In Hawai`i, most nesting currently occurs in the NWHI, although 
nesting is increasing in the MHI, as is basking of green turtles. 
Coastal development and construction, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, 
beach pollution, tourism, and other human related activities are 
current threats to nesting and basking habitat in the MHI. These 
threats will affect more green turtles in this DPS if nesting increases 
in the MHI. Human populations are growing rapidly in many areas of the 
insular Pacific, including Hawai`i, and this expansion is exerting 
increased pressure on limited island resources.
    Climatic changes in the NWHI pose threats through reduction in area 
of nesting beaches critical to this DPS (Baker et al., 2006). Baker et 
al. (2006) examined the potential effects of sea level rise in the NWHI 
and found that the primary nesting area for the Central North Pacific 
population will be negatively impacted by sea level rise through 
possible loss of nesting habitat. For example, Whale-Skate Island at 
French Frigate Shoals was formerly a primary green turtle nesting site 
for this DPS, but the island has subsided and is no longer available 
for nesting (Kittinger et al., 2013). Trig, Gin, and Little Gin could 
lose large portions of their area, concentrating nesting even further 
at East Island (Baker et al., 2006).
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    Impacts to the quality of coastal habitats in the MHI are a threat 
to this DPS and are expected to continue and possibly increase with an 
increasing human population and annual influx of millions of tourists. 
Loss of foraging habitat or reduction in habitat quality in the MHI due 
to nearshore development is a threat to this DPS. Marina construction, 
beach development, siltation of forage areas, contamination of forage 
areas from anthropogenic activities, resort development or activities, 
increased vessel traffic, and other activities are all considered 
threats to this population and its habitat (Bowen et al., 1992; NMFS 
and USFWS, 1998; Friedlander et al., 2006; Wedding and Friedlander, 
2008; Wedding et al., 2008; Van Houtan et al., 2010). Seagrass and 
coral reef habitat of Moloka`i has been degraded from upland soil 
erosion and siltation, and coral reefs of Hawai`i, Kaua`i, Lana`i, 
Maui, and O`ahu have been degraded by sedimentation, sewage, or coastal 
construction (NMFS and USFWS, 1998). In general, MHI coral reefs have 
suffered from land-based sources of pollution, overfishing, 
recreational overuse, and alien and invasive species (Friedlander et 
al., 2005). Vessel groundings (mechanical damage to habitat and reef-
associated organisms) and related release of contaminants (e.g., fuel, 
hazardous substances, etc.) are a threat to Central North Pacific green 
turtle habitat (Keller et al., 2009). It is difficult to predict the 
exact number or severity of vessel groundings expected in any future 
year, but key nesting and foraging habitat for green sea turtles occurs 
in the areas of the MHI and the NWHI where commercial and recreational 
boating occurs (Keller et al., 2009).
    During the last century, habitat on Johnston Atoll was affected by 
military activities such as nuclear testing and chemical weapons 
incineration. The lingering effects of these activities

[[Page 15324]]

include water contamination from nutrients, dioxins, plutonium, and a 
subsurface plume of PCB-contaminated petroleum product (Balazs, 1985).
    In summary, within Factor A, we find that the loss of nesting beach 
habitat is a threat to the DPS in the NWHI. We find that coastal 
development and construction, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, beach 
pollution, tourism, and other human related activities are threats in 
the MHI. Climate change, marina construction, contamination of forage 
areas from anthropogenic activities, resort development or activities, 
increased vessel traffic are significant, increasing threats posing a 
risk to the persistence of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    Harvest of green turtles has been illegal since green turtles were 
listed under the ESA in 1978. It is possible that human take today is 
underreported, as anecdotal information suggests that some degree of 
illegal take occurs throughout the MHI. The extent of such take is 
unknown; however, it is believed that current illegal harvest of green 
turtles for human consumption continues in a limited way, although 
Federal and State cooperative efforts and existing legislation appear 
to be minimizing the threat.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    The FP disease affects green turtles found in the Central North 
Pacific Ocean (Francke et al., 2013). This disease results in internal 
and/or external tumors (fibropapillomas) that may grow large enough to 
hamper swimming, vision, feeding, and potential escape from predators. 
FP appears to have peaked in some areas of Hawai`i, remained the same 
in some regions, and increased in others (Van Houtan et al., 2010). 
Environmental factors may be significant in promoting FP, and 
eutrophication (increase in nutrients) of coastal marine ecosystems may 
promote this disease (Van Houtan et al., 2010). FP remains an important 
concern in some green turtle populations. This is particularly true 
given the continued, and possibly future increasing, human impacts to, 
and eutrophication of, coastal marine ecosystems that may promote this 
disease. However, its effects on reproductive effort are uncertain.
    Ghost crabs (Ocypode spp.) prey on hatchlings at FFS (Niethammer et 
al., 1997) at approximately 5 percent (Balazs, 1980). Large grouper 
(Epinephelus tauvina), sea birds, and sharks are documented natural 
predators of green turtles in Hawai`i; however, the extent of predation 
is unknown (Balazs, 1995; Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Francke, 2013).
    Mongoose, rats, dogs, feral pigs, and cats--all introduced 
species--that exist on the MHI are known to prey on eggs and 
hatchlings, although the impact on the current low level of nesting is 
unclear (nesting in the MHI is extremely low compared to historical 
levels). If nesting in the MHI increases, the importance of the threat 
from these potential predators would increase.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    Regulatory mechanisms that protect green turtles are in place and 
include State, Federal, and international laws. The analysis of these 
existing regulatory mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place 
at their current levels. Numerous Federal and State governmental and 
non-governmental efforts at public education, protection and monitoring 
of green turtles contribute to the conservation of the Central North 
Pacific DPS. At least 16 international treaties and/or regulatory 
mechanisms apply to the conservation of green turtles in the Central 
North Pacific.
    Nesting occurs exclusively within the United States. Monitoring and 
protective efforts are ongoing for both nesting areas (in the NWHI and 
where nesting is occurring in the MHI) and in nearshore waters. 
Regulatory mechanisms in U.S. jurisdiction are in place through the 
ESA, MSA and the State of Hawai`i that currently address direct and 
incidental take of Central North Pacific green turtles, and these 
regulatory mechanisms have been an important factor in the encouraging 
trend in this DPS.
    The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument was established 
in January 2009, and is cooperatively managed by the Secretary of 
Commerce (NOAA) and the Secretary of the Interior (USFWS), with the 
exception of Wake Island and Johnston Atoll, which are currently 
managed by the Department of Defense. The areas extend 92.6 km from the 
mean low water lines around emergent islands and atolls and include 
green turtle habitat. Commercial fishing is prohibited within the 
limits of the Monument, and recreational fishing requires a permit. On 
September 27, 2014, President Obama issued Presidential Proclamation 
9173 to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Monument to incorporate 
waters and submerged lands at Jarvis Island, Wake Island, and Johnston 
Atoll to the seaward limit of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 
Proclamation 9173 prohibits commercial fishing in expanded areas of the 
Monument, and directs the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce to 
ensure that recreational and non-commercial fishing continue to be 
managed as sustainable activities in the Monument. The protected areas 
provide some protection to sea turtles and their habitat through 
permitted access and its remoteness.
    A commercial ban on turtle harvest was put into place by the State 
of Hawai`i in 1974, 4 years before the green turtle was listed under 
the ESA. Since 1978, green turtles have been protected by the ESA. They 
are also protected by the Hawai`i Revised Statutes, Chapter 195D 
(Hawai`i State Legislature, accessed Sept. 10, 2010) and Hawai`i 
Administrative Rules, 13-124 (Hawai`i Administrative Rules, accessed 
Sept. 10, 2010), which adopt the same definitions, status designations, 
and prohibitions as the ESA and carry additional penalties for 
violations at the State government level. These two statutes have been, 
and currently are, key tools in efforts to recover and protect this 
DPS, and both have provided for comprehensive protection and recovery 
activities that have been sufficiently effective to improve the status 
of green turtles in Hawai`i significantly. The ESA and Hawai`i statutes 
are not, however, redundant. For example, the ESA requires Federal 
agencies to consult with the Services on their actions that may affect 
green turtles.
    Current monitoring, conservation efforts, and legal enforcement 
have been effective and promote the persistence of the Central North 
Pacific DPS, which occurs almost exclusively in U.S. waters. It is 
important to note, however, that the analysis by the SRT did not 
consider the scenario in which current laws or regulatory mechanisms 
were not continued. Under the ESA, regulatory measures provide 
protections that are not provided entirely by State protections. For 
instance, if the DPS was delisted and the protections of the ESA were 
no longer in place, many on-the-ground conservation and monitoring 
actions and, importantly, financial resources that are afforded by the 
ESA (e.g., section 6) would not continue. In addition, the taking of 
green turtles in the United States requires authorization under 
sections 7 or 10 of the ESA and their implementing regulations. For 
example, activities that affect green turtles and do not involve 
Federal agencies, such as coastal development, construction, and 
research, must comply with section 10 of the ESA to avoid violating the 
statute. Section 10

[[Page 15325]]

permits require avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating impacts to green 
turtles to the extent possible. Federal actions (i.e., those 
authorized, funded, or carried out by Federal agencies), are subject to 
consultation with the Services under section 7 of the ESA; those 
resulting in take of green turtles are required to minimize effects. 
These actions include, but are not limited to, federally regulated 
fisheries and management and research activities within the federally-
protected Papah[amacr]naumoku[amacr]kea Marine National Monument in the 
NWHI.
    The threat of bycatch in international fisheries is not adequately 
regulated, although bycatch in domestic Federal fisheries has been 
addressed to a greater extent. In addition, some threats to the 
species, such as climate change, are either not able to be regulated 
under the ESA, or not regulated sufficiently to control or even slow 
the threat.
    The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to 
specifically address marine pollution, sea level rise, and effects of 
climate change that continue to contribute to the extinction risk of 
this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    The SRT identified incidental capture in fisheries as a significant 
threat to green turtles of the Central North Pacific DPS. The primary 
gear types involved in these interactions include longlines and nets. 
These are employed by both artisanal and industrial fleets, and target 
a variety of species.
i. Longline Fisheries
    Pacific longline fisheries capture green turtles as bycatch in 
longline gear (line, hooks), and these interactions can result in 
mortality (NMFS, 2012). U.S. longline fisheries are required to comply 
with sea turtle mitigation measures (50 CFR 665.812), including the use 
of circle hooks, dehookers, line clippers, and crewmember training, 
that have reduced green sea turtle interactions to negligible levels. 
However, while exact numbers are not available, it is estimated that, 
at a minimum, 100 green turtles from the Central North Pacific DPS are 
captured and killed annually by foreign longlines (NMFS, 2012).
ii. Gillnet Fisheries
    Interactions between Central North Pacific green turtles and 
nearshore fisheries in the MHI can result in entanglement, injury, and 
mortality. Balazs et al. (1987) documented sea turtle mortality 
resulting from bycatch in fishing gear over 25 years ago in Hawai`i. 
While gill nets are regulated by the state of Hawai`i, fishers are only 
required to inspect them completely every two hours, so entanglement 
and drowning does occur (NMFS, 2012). Each year green sea turtles are 
incidentally entangled in net gear, some of these resulting in 
mortality (e.g., Francke, 2013); however the reported strandings in the 
MHI are believed to be a smaller subset of the actual level of 
interaction with this gear.
iii. Other Gear Types
    Hook-and-line fishing from shore or boats also hooks and entangles 
green turtles (Francke et al., 2013; NMFS, 2012). Interactions with 
nearshore recreational fisheries are identified in the NMFS stranding 
database as those turtles that strand as a result of interactions with 
fish hooks and fishing line. Nearshore fishery interactions have 
increased over time (Francke, 2013; Francke et al., 2013; Ikonomopoulou 
et al., 2013). While current public outreach efforts by NMFS and its 
partners attempt to reduce the magnitude of impact on green turtles 
from hook-and-line fishing, injury or mortality from the hooking or 
from the effects of line remaining on turtles that are cut free or 
break the line remains an issue (http://pifscblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/marine-turtle-response-achieves-significant-milestone/).
b. Marine Debris and Pollution
    The ingestion of and entanglement in marine debris is another 
anthropogenic threat to Central North Pacific green turtles throughout 
their range. Marine debris is common in the MHI and a direct threat to 
sea turtles (Wedding and Friedlander, 2008). Stranding information for 
this DPS shows that entanglement in lost or discarded fishing line is 
one of the causes of green turtle strandings and mortality in the MHI. 
In the NWHI, marine debris is also a threat in the terrestrial and 
marine environment. In 1996, it was estimated that between 750 and 
1,000 tons of marine debris were on reefs and beaches in the NWHI, and 
the source of much of the debris is fishing nets discarded or lost in 
the northeastern Pacific Ocean (Keller et al., 2009). Turtles in the 
MHI encounter pollution as a result of coastal development, runoff, and 
waste water (point source and non-point source pollution; Friedlander 
et al., 2008).
c. Vessel Interactions
    As in other parts of the world, boating activities are a threat to 
turtles within this DPS (Francke et al., 2013). Chaloupka et al. 
(2008b) report that 2.5 percent of green turtle strandings (N = 3,745) 
were caused by boat strike in the Hawaiian Archipelago from 1982 to 
2003. Additionally, boat traffic has been shown to exclude green 
turtles from preferred coastal foraging pastures (Seminoff et al., 
2002c), which may negatively affect their nutritional intake.
    Vessel groundings (mechanical damage to habitat and reef-associated 
organisms) and related release of contaminants (e.g., fuel, hazardous 
substances, etc.) are a threat not only to Central North Pacific green 
turtle habitat, but directly to the turtles themselves. Thirteen 
reported vessel groundings have occurred in the NWHI in the last 60 
years (Keller et al., 2009). Vessel traffic and presence can also have 
negative effects through habitat damage from anchors, waste discharge, 
light and noise (Keller et al., 2009).
d. Effects of Climate Change
    As in other areas of the world, climate change and sea level rise 
have the potential to negatively affect green turtles in the Central 
North Pacific DPS. Climate change influences on water temperatures, 
ocean acidification, sea level and related changes in coral reef 
habitat, wave climate and coastal shorelines are expected to continue 
(Friedlander et al., 2008). Keller et al. (2009) suggest that sea level 
rise, changing storm dynamics, sea surface temperatures, and ocean 
acidification are key threats for the NWHI, and that evidence of sea 
level rise has already begun to adversely affect terrestrial and ocean 
habitat. Tiwari et al. (2010) argued that East Island itself is still 
not yet at carrying capacity, in the sense of crude nesting area and 
current nesting densities. Yet entire islands have been submerged in 
recent history (i.e., Whale-Skate in the late 1990s), resulting in the 
loss of a primary nesting site at FFS (Baker et al., 2006). It is 
likely that sea level rise will lead to increased erosion of nesting 
beaches and significant loss of habitat (Baker et al., 2006; IPCC, 
2007); however, it remains unclear how nesting habitat loss and natal 
homing traits will influence future nesting in this DPS.
    As temperatures increase, there is concern that incubation 
temperatures could reach levels that exceed the thermal tolerance for 
embryonic development, thus increasing embryo and hatchling mortality 
(Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Fuller et al., 2010). Niethammer et al. 
(Niethammer 1997) note that given that the FFS nesting colony is on the 
northern extreme of green turtle breeding range, small changes in beach 
conditions (e.g., microhabitats of nests) may have severe

[[Page 15326]]

consequences on nesting. Changes in global temperatures could also 
affect juvenile and adult distribution patterns. Possible changes to 
ocean currents and dynamics may result in negative effects to natural 
dispersal during a complex life cycle (Van Houtan and Halley, 2011), 
and possible nest mortality linked to erosion may result from increased 
storm frequency (Van Houtan and Bass, 2007) and intensity (Keller et 
al., 2009).
    While sea turtles have survived past eras that have included 
significant temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected 
to happen at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly 
they may face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). 
Impacts from global climate change induced by human activities are 
likely to become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007).
e. Effects of Spatial Structure
    While the nesting population trajectory in the Central North 
Pacific DPS is positive and encouraging, the DPS exhibits moderately 
low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting females), and more than 96 
percent of nesting occurs at one site in the NWHI (FFS). Therefore, 
survival of this DPS is currently highly dependent on successful 
nesting at FFS (Niethammer et al., 1992). The concentrated nature and 
relatively small size of the nesting population make it vulnerable to 
random variation and stochasticities in the biological and physical 
environment, including natural catastrophes, as well as changes in 
climate and resulting effects such as sea level rise. This increases 
its risk of extinction, even though the DPS may currently have positive 
population growth (e.g., Meffe et al., 1994; Primack, 1998; Balazs and 
Kubis, 2007; Hunter and Gibbs, 2007). That said, aside from sea level 
rise, FFS is relatively isolated from anthropogenic threats, as it 
occurs within the Papah[amacr]naumoku[amacr]kea Marine National 
Monument, a remote Monument that has controlled access for activities 
that occur within it. The regional range expansion into nesting areas 
in the MHI provide increased spatial diversity and may buffer against 
the loss of nesting sites at FFS; however, nesting areas in the MHI are 
exposed to anthropogenic threats.
    Within Factor E, we find that incidental bycatch in fishing gear, 
marine pollution, interactions with recreational and commercial 
vessels, climate change, beach driving, and major storm events all 
negatively affect green turtles in the Central North Pacific DPS. The 
consideration of climate change, and the fact that the one isolated 
atoll, where approximately 96 percent of green turtles within this DPS 
nest, is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, increase the risk of 
extinction for this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the Central North Pacific DPS

    The State of Hawai`i's efforts to conserve green turtles include: 
Wildlife regulations; coordination of stranding response and specimen 
storage on the islands of Maui, Hawai`i, and Kaua`i; issuance and 
management of special activity permits; statewide outreach and 
education activities; and nest monitoring on Maui (Department of Land 
and Natural Resources, 2013). Hawai`i Division of Aquatic Resources 
staff responds to stranded turtle reports and issues special use 
permits to researchers and educators. The Division of Conservation and 
Resources Enforcement investigates reports of illegal poaching, 
provides support and security at some nest sites and strandings, and 
addresses complaints from the public regarding turtle disturbances.
    With regard to conservation areas, the 
Papah[amacr]naumoku[amacr]kea Marine National Monument in the NWHI is a 
conservation area established in 2006 that encompasses coral reefs, 
islands and shallow water environments. It comprises several previously 
existing Federal conservation areas, including the NWHI Coral Reef 
Ecosystem Reserve, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaiian 
Islands National Wildlife Refuge, NWHI Marine Refuge, State Seabird 
Sanctuary at Kure Atoll and the Battle of Midway National Memorial. The 
Monument is administered jointly by three co-trustees: NOAA, the USFWS, 
and the State of Hawai`i. The Monument's mission is to carry out 
seamless integrated management to ensure ecological integrity and 
achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of NWHI 
ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current 
and future generations. Commercial fishing is prohibited in the 
Monument and all other human activities require a permit.
    Overall, conservation efforts have been successful in this DPS, as 
exhibited by the increasing trend in the green turtle population.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the Central North 
Pacific DPS

    The Central North Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically 
concentrated nesting (96 percent of nesting occurs at one location) and 
moderately low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting females). Such a low 
number is the result of chronic historical exploitation, which 
extirpated 80 percent of historically major nesting grounds (Kittinger 
et al., 2013). The DPS is geographically and chronologically well-
sampled, with no sites where nesting is unquantified, and very little 
chance there are undocumented nesting locations. Time series analysis 
of nesting female abundance over 40 years at FFS shows a marked 
increase in nesting since surveys were initiated in 1973, with an 
encouraging annual rate of increase of 4.8 percent. However, 96 percent 
of nesting now occurs at one atoll (FFS)--where sea level rise is a 
significant concern--and no more than 40 females nest at any of the 
other 11 sites. Information on in-water abundance trends is consistent 
with the increase in nesting.
    The Status Review indicates that the DPS shows strength in its 
population trend, but that there are concerns about overall abundance, 
spatial structure, and diversity/resilience. Indeed, in spite of the 
positive trends in the last few decades, the unprecedented 
concentration of nesting at one site and moderately low population size 
raise serious concerns about the resilience of this DPS, particularly 
its ability to adapt to future climate scenarios. Ninety-eight percent 
of the population nests are low lying atolls (96 percent nesting in a 
single low-lying atoll), making them extremely vulnerable to sea level 
rise--some effects of which have already been witnessed. Keller et al. 
(2009) suggest that sea level rise, changing storm dynamics, sea 
surface temperatures, and ocean acidification are key threats for the 
NWHI. Current and projected maps of four islands in the NWHI predicted 
a sea level rise ranging from 9 cm to 88 cm by 2100, with a projected 
loss of nesting beach at approximately 15 to 26 percent (IPCC, 2001). 
Further, sea level rise is expected to continue at a rate exceeding 
that observed during 1971-2010 as a result of increased ocean warming 
and increased loss of glacier and ice sheet mass (IPCC, 2013). Baker et 
al. (2006) examined the potential effects of sea level rise in the NWHI 
and found that the primary nesting area for the Central North Pacific 
population is threatened by sea level rise through possible loss of 
nesting habitat. They note that one formerly significant nesting site--
Whale-Skate Island--is now completely submerged. They further note that 
the islets of Trig, Gin and Little Gin could lose large portions

[[Page 15327]]

of their area, concentrating nesting even further at East Island. In 
contrast, Tiwari et al. (2010) argued that East Island itself is still 
not yet at carrying capacity, in the sense of crude nesting area and 
current nesting densities. It remains unclear how catastrophic nesting 
habitat loss and natal homing traits will influence future nesting in 
this DPS. Habitat degradation resulting from the release of 
contaminants contained in landfills and other areas of the NWHI could 
also occur as the islands erode or are flooded from sea level rise 
(Keller et al., 2009). Other effects of climate change include 
increasing temperatures at nesting beaches that may affect hatchling 
sex ratios and embryonic development (Balazs and Kubis, 2007; Fuller et 
al., 2010b). Making this an even greater concern is that climate change 
and the resultant sea level rise are difficult to regulate and 
certainly cannot be sufficiently regulated through the ESA to slow its 
effects.
    In summary, despite an upward trend in population abundance, the 
Central North Pacific DPS is characterized by geographically 
concentrated nesting and low levels of abundance (3,846 nesting 
females). The lack of redundancy in nesting sites and the low nesting 
numbers at these sites lead to low resilience within this DPS. The 
consideration of climate change, and the fact that the one isolated 
atoll, where approximately 96 percent of green turtles within this DPS 
nest, is extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, increase the risk of 
extinction.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the Central North Pacific 
DPS as threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of the increasing nesting trend; however, the 
continued threats coupled with a small and narrowly distributed nesting 
population are likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable 
future.

XVII. East Pacific DPS

A. Discussion of Population Parameters for the East Pacific DPS

    The range of the East Pacific DPS extends from the California/
Oregon border (41 [deg]N) southward along the Pacific coast of the 
Americas to central Chile (40 [deg]S). Green turtles originating from 
this DPS regularly strand along the shoreline of Oregon and Washington. 
The northern and southern boundaries of this DPS extend from the 
aforementioned locations in the United States and Chile to 142 [deg]W 
and 96 [deg]W, respectively. The offshore boundary of this DPS is a 
straight line between these two coordinates. This DPS encompasses the 
Revillagigedos Archipelago, Mexico and the Gal[aacute]pagos 
Archipelago, Ecuador (Figure 2). The East Pacific DPS also includes the 
Mexican Pacific coast breeding population, which is currently listed as 
endangered (43 FR 32800, July 28, 1978).
    Green turtle nesting is widely dispersed in the Eastern Pacific 
Ocean. We identified 40 total nesting sites for which abundance 
information is available, although there are sporadic nesting events in 
other areas with undocumented abundance. The largest nesting 
aggregation is found in Colola, Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico, with 11,588 
nesting females, or nearly 58 percent of the total nesting population 
(Delgado-Trejo and Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012). The second largest site is 
in the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands, Ecuador, where nesting at the four 
primary nesting sites (Quinta Playa and Barahona (Isabela Island), Las 
Bachas (Santa Cruz Island), and Las Salinas (Baltras Island)) has been 
stable to slightly increasing since the late 1970s, and was last 
estimated at 3,603 nesting females in 2005 (Z[agrave]rate et al., 2006; 
Z[agrave]rate, unpubl. data). Other nesting areas are found in 
Micho[aacute]can, including Bahia Maruata (1,149; Delgado-Trejo and 
Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012) and Motin de Oro (240; Delgado-Trejo and 
Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012); Clarion and Socorro Islands in the 
Revillagigedos Archipelago, Mexico (500; Blanco and Santidri[aacute]n, 
2011); and 26 sites throughout the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, 
including Playa San Jose in the Bat Islands (498; L. Fonseca, unpubl. 
data), Playa Colorada (498; L. Fonseca, unpubl. data), Nombre Jesus 
(450; Blanco and Santidri[aacute]n, 2011), Playa Cabuyal (273; P. 
Santidri[aacute]n-Tomillo, Leatherback Trust, pers. comm., 2013), Playa 
Zapotillal (150; Blanco and Santidri[aacute]n, 2011) and Playa Nancite 
(123; Fonseca et al., 2011). Low level nesting (fewer than 100 nesting 
females) occurs elsewhere in Mexico, Costa Rica, mainland Ecuador, 
Colombia, Guatemala, and Peru, although the last two are unquantified 
(G. Tiburcios-Pintos, Minicipio de Los Cabos, pers. comm., 2012; S. 
Kelez, ecOceanica, pers. comm., 2012).
    Nesting at the largest beach in the range of this DPS (Colola, 
Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico) has shown an upward trend since 1996. The 
observed increase at Colola may have resulted from the onset of nesting 
beach protection in 1979--as is suggested by the similarity in timing 
between the onset of beach conservation and the age-to-maturity for 
green turtles in Pacific Mexico. The initial upward turn in annual 
nesting was seen in 1996, about 17 years after the initiation of a 
nesting beach protection program (Cliffton et al., 1982; Alvarado-
D[iacute]az et al., 2001), and growth data from the Gulf of California 
suggest that green turtles in this DPS mature at 15-25 years (Seminoff 
et al., 2002a). Although not a clear cause of the increasing nesting 
trend, the consistency in timing is nonetheless compelling. The 
presidential decree protecting all sea turtles of Mexico (Pesca, 1990) 
certainly helped the situation, but this occurred much later than the 
start of nesting beach conservation. It is more likely that this 
national legislation has had its greatest positive impact at the 
foraging areas, where green turtle hunting was once rampant.
    With regard to spatial structure, genetic sampling in the eastern 
Pacific has been extensive and the coverage in this region is 
substantial considering the relatively low population sizes of most 
eastern Pacific nesting sites. Within this DPS there is significant 
population substructuring. Four regional genetic stocks have been 
identified in the eastern Pacific (P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data): 
Revillagigedos Archipelago (Mexico), Michoac[aacute]n (Mexico), Costa 
Rica, and the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands (Ecuador). There is a relatively 
high level of spatial structure and the presence of rare/unique 
haplotypes at each nesting site stock. Green turtles from multiple 
nesting beach origins commonly mix at feeding areas in the Gulf of 
California (Nichols, 2003; P. Dutton, NMFS, unpubl. data). A recent 
study using nuclear single nucleotide polymorphisms (a DNA sequence 
variation occurring commonly within a population) and microsatellite 
markers investigated the genetic stock structure among five Pacific 
green turtle nesting populations. They found significant structure 
between their two eastern Pacific sample sites (Gal[aacute]pagos and 
Mexico), suggesting that male-mediated gene flow between regional 
nesting stocks is limited (Roden et al., 2013).
    Flipper tag recoveries show 94 tag returns from foraging areas that 
were applied at two primary nesting sites, Michoac[aacute]n Mexico and 
the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands, Ecuador. Two apparent groupings suggest 
some North/South structure. Forty-nine satellite tracks of green 
turtles in the eastern Pacific show apparent track clustering in 
Northwest Mexico to Southern United States, and in the Southeast 
Pacific, from the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands to the high seas and to the 
Central American mainland. There are too few satellite tracks to 
provide solid information on spatial structure. Within-region variation 
in demographic features also suggests a level of spatial structure for 
the East Pacific DPS. Among all nesting

[[Page 15328]]

assemblages in the East Pacific DPS, the Revillagigedos Islands stands 
out as uniquely different from the remaining areas.
    With regard to diversity and resilience, the East Pacific DPS has 
substantial nesting at both insular and continental nesting sites. The 
presence of year round nesting at some sites, and non-overlapping 
nesting seasons at others, suggest that the nesting phenology of green 
turtles in this DPS may help buffer in geologic time against climate 
change, both in terms of increased mean incubation temperatures on 
beaches and in terms of impact to storms and other seasonal events. The 
nesting season in Michoac[aacute]n runs from October through January 
(Alvarado-D[iacute]az and Figueroa, 1990); in the Revillagigedos 
Islands nesting occurs from March through November with a peak in 
April/May (Awbrey et al., 1984; Brattstrom, 1982) and in the 
Gal[aacute]pagos, nesting occurs year-round with a peak from January to 
March (Z[aacute]rate et al., 2013). Year-round nesting has also been 
confirmed for some areas in Costa Rica.
    There is a range of beach shade levels depending on the nesting 
beach. At some sites such as those in the Revillagigedos Islands and 
beaches in Mexico, the beaches have little vegetation and nests are 
commonly laid in full-sun areas. On the other hand, the beaches in 
Costa Rica are highly shaded and nests are commonly deposited deep in 
the coastal scrub bushes and trees. There are also intermediate sites, 
such as those in the Gal[aacute]pagos, which have a mix of full sun and 
shade sites on any given beach. While the exposed beaches are more 
likely to suffer from the impacts of climate change, those in shaded 
areas may be subjected to less heating.

B. Summary of Factors Affecting the East Pacific DPS

1. Factor A: The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or 
Curtailment of its Habitat or Range
a. Terrestrial Zone
    The largest threat on nesting beaches in the East Pacific DPS is 
reduced availability of habitat due to heavy armament and subsequent 
erosion. In addition, while nesting beaches in Costa Rica, 
Revillagigedos Islands, and the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands are less 
affected by coastal development than green turtle nesting beaches in 
other regions around the Pacific, several of the secondary green turtle 
nesting beaches in M[eacute]xico suffer from coastal development. For 
example, effects of coastal development are especially acute at 
Maruata, a site with heavy tourist activity and foot traffic during the 
nesting season (Seminoff, 1994). Nest destruction due to human presence 
is also a threat to nesting beaches in the Galap[aacute]gos Islands 
(Z[aacute]rate et al., 2006). However, such threats vary by site 
(Z[aacute]rate, 2012). Insular sites have very low levels of human 
interference at nesting beaches, although turtles may be affected in 
foraging areas. The low impacts at insular nesting sites suggest that 
these areas may serve as nesting refugia if management regimes change 
and/or poaching at continental sites increases.
b. Neritic/Oceanic Zones
    With respect to environmental degradation in the marine 
environment, coastal habitats along the continental and insular shores 
of the eastern Pacific are relatively pristine, although green turtles 
in San Diego Bay, at the north edge of their range, have high levels of 
contaminants (Komoroske et al., 2011; 2012). However, the nutrient flow 
and structure within seagrass communities in many coastal areas are 
likely modified today due to the depletion of green turtles which, 
during times of higher abundance, would have been keystone consumers in 
these habitats (Bjorndal, 1980; Thayer et al., 1992; Seminoff et al., 
2012b). Although the impacts of ongoing and proposed human activities 
are difficult to quantify, recent human population increases in many 
areas underscore the need to develop and implement management 
strategies that balance development and economic activities with the 
needs of green turtles.
    In summary, within Factor A we find that the East Pacific DPS of 
the green turtle is negatively affected by ongoing changes in both its 
terrestrial and marine habitats as a result of land and water use 
practices. We also find that coastal development, beachfront lighting, 
and heavy foot traffic consistently affect hatchlings and nesting 
turtles on a small portion of this DPS.
2. Factor B: Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, 
or Educational Purposes
    In some countries and localities within the range of the East 
Pacific DPS, harvest of green turtle eggs is legal, while in others it 
is illegal but persistent due to lack of enforcement. The impact of egg 
harvest is exacerbated by the high monetary value of eggs, consistent 
market demand, and severe poverty in many of the countries in the 
Eastern Pacific Region where sea turtles are found. Egg harvest is a 
major conservation challenge at several sites in Costa Rica, including 
Nombre de Jesus and Zapotillal Beaches, where 90 percent of the eggs 
were taken by egg collectors during one particular study (Blanco, 
2010). Egg harvest is also believed to occur at unprotected nesting 
sites in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua (NMFS and USFWS, 
2007). Indeed, green turtles are hunted in many areas of northwest 
Mexico despite legal protection (Nichols et al., 2002; Seminoff et al., 
2003; J. Seminoff, NMFS, pers. obs., 2012). Mancini and Koch (2009) 
describe a black market that killed tens of thousands of green turtles 
each year in the Eastern Pacific Region.
    Sea turtles were, and continue to be, harvested primarily for their 
meat, although other products have served important non-food uses. Sea 
turtle oil was for many years used as a cold remedy and the meat, eggs 
and other products have been highly-valued for their aphrodisiacal 
qualities, beliefs that strongly persist in the countries bordering the 
East Pacific DPS.
3. Factor C: Disease or Predation
    FP is virtually non-existent in green turtles within the East 
Pacific DPS (Koch et al., 2007), and predation occurs at low levels. In 
the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands there is depredation on eggs and 
hatchlings by feral pigs (Sus sp.) and beetles (order Coleoptera), 
although predation levels are not reported (Z[aacute]rate et al., 2003; 
2006). There are accounts of jaguars (Panthera onca) killing adult 
female green turtles (L. Fonseca, National University of Costa Rica, 
unpubl. data, 2009) at beaches in Costa Rica, but this is not a major 
problem for the DPS.
4. Factor D: Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms
    The following countries have laws to protect green turtles: Chile, 
Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, 
Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and the United States. In addition, at 
least 10 international treaties and/or regulatory mechanisms apply to 
the conservation of green turtles in the East Pacific DPS. Overall, 
regulatory mechanisms for green turtles in the East Pacific DPS are 
inconsistent. While there are numerous substantive and/or improving 
conservation efforts, especially on the primary nesting beaches, and 
this may be reflected in the recent increases in the number of nesting 
females, many concerns remain due to limited enforcement of existing 
laws and marine protected areas as well as extensive fishery bycatch, 
especially in coastal waters. The analysis of existing regulatory 
mechanisms assumed that all would remain in place at their current

[[Page 15329]]

levels; however, some regulatory mechanisms, including laws and 
international treaties, are not realizing their full potential because 
they are not enforced adequately in all countries occupied by the DPS.
    While most of the major nesting beaches are monitored, some of the 
management measures in place are inadequate and may be inappropriate. 
On some beaches, hatchling releases are coordinated with the tourist 
industry or nests are being trampled on or are unprotected. The largest 
threat on the nesting beaches, reduced availability of habitat due to 
heavy armament and subsequent erosion, is just beginning to be 
addressed, but without immediate attention may ultimately result in the 
demise of the highest density beaches. Further, it is suspected that 
there are substantial impacts from illegal, unreported, and unregulated 
fishing, which we are unable to mitigate without additional fisheries 
management efforts and international collaborations. While conservation 
projects for this population have been in place since 1978 for some 
important areas, efforts in other areas are still being developed to 
address major threats, including fisheries bycatch and long-term 
nesting habitat protection.
    Bycatch has not been thoroughly evaluated but it is largely known 
that most fishermen either improperly implement TEDs or remove them 
entirely from their trawls. As was the case with sea turtle meat and 
egg collection, an almost total lack of enforcement of bycatch 
mitigation measures by local authorities only helps to confound the 
problem. Additionally, TEDs are not a requirement for artisanal 
shrimping boats which, with today's technology, are becoming more 
`industrial' in ability and have been reported to catch large numbers 
of sea turtles. It is unlikely that bycatch mortality can be 
sufficiently reduced across the range of the DPS in the near future 
because of the diversity and magnitude of the fisheries operating in 
the DPS, the lack of comprehensive information on fishing distribution 
and effort, limitations on implementing demonstrated effective 
conservation measures, geopolitical complexities, limitations on 
enforcement capacity, and lack of availability of comprehensive bycatch 
reduction technologies.
    The Status Review did not reveal regulatory mechanisms in place to 
specifically address impacts to the nesting beach, marine pollution, 
sea level rise, and effects of climate change that continue to 
contribute to the extinction risk of this DPS.
5. Factor E: Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting Its Continued 
Existence
a. Incidental Bycatch in Fishing Gear
    Incidental capture in artisanal and commercial fisheries is a 
significant threat to the survival of green turtles throughout the 
Eastern Pacific Ocean. The primary gear types involved in these 
interactions include longlines, drift nets, set nets, and trawl 
fisheries. These are employed by both artisanal and industrial fleets, 
and target a wide variety of species including tunas (Thunnus sp.), 
sharks (class Chondrichthyes), sardines (Sardinella sp.), swordfish 
(Xiphias gladius), and mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus).
    In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly areas in the southern 
portion of the range of this DPS, significant bycatch has been reported 
in artisanal gill net and longline shark and mahi mahi fisheries 
operating out of Peru (Kelez et al., 2003; Alfaro-Shigueto et al., 
2006) and, to a lesser extent, Chile (Donoso and Dutton, 2010). The 
fishing industry in Peru is the second largest economic activity in the 
country and, over the past few years, the longline fishery has rapidly 
increased. During an observer program in 2003/2004, 588 sets were 
observed during 60 trips, and 154 sea turtles were taken as bycatch. 
Green turtles were the second most common sea turtle species in these 
interactions. In many cases, green turtles are kept on board for human 
consumption; therefore, the mortality rate in this artisanal longline 
fishery is likely high because sea turtles are retained for future 
consumption or sale.
    Koch et al. (2006) reported green turtle bycatch-related dead 
strandings numbering in the hundreds in Bahia Magdalena. In Baja 
California Sur, Mexico, from 2006-2009 small-scale gill-net fisheries 
caused massive green turtle mortality at Laguna San Ignacio, where 
Mancini et al. (2012) estimated that over 1,000 turtles were killed 
each year in nets set for guitarfish.
    Bycatch in coastal areas occurs principally in shrimp trawlers, 
gill nets and bottom longlines (e.g., Orrego and Arauz, 2004). However, 
since 1996, all countries from Mexico to Ecuador declared the use of 
TEDs as mandatory for all industrial fleets to meet the requirements to 
export shrimp to the United States under the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens 
Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Helvey and Fahy, 2012). Since 
then, bycatch has not been thoroughly evaluated but it is widely 
believed that most fishers either improperly implement TEDs or remove 
them entirely from their trawls.
    Additionally, TEDs are not required for artisanal shrimping boats, 
which with today's technology, are becoming more `industrial' in 
ability and have been reported to catch large numbers of sea turtles 
(A. Zavala, Universidad de Sinaloa, pers. comm., 2012). Bottom-set 
longlines and gill nets, both artisanal and industrial, also interact 
frequently with sea turtles, and can have devastating mortality rates, 
such as has been the case in artisanal fisheries of Baja California, 
Mexico (Peckham et al., 2007). In purse seine fisheries, which 
typically target tuna and other large pelagic fish species, the highest 
rate of turtles are captured with ``log sets'' around natural floating 
objects or Fish Aggregation Devices (Hall, 1998).
b. Pollution
    Other threats such as debris ingestion (Seminoff et al., 2002c) and 
boat strikes (P. Dutton, NMFS, pers. comm., 2012; NMFS stranding 
records, unpubl.) also affect green turtles in the Eastern Pacific. Red 
tide poisoning is also a threat to this species (Delgado-Trejo and 
Alvarado-Figueroa, 2012).
c. Effects of Climate Change and Natural Disasters
    Effects of climate change include, among other things, sea surface 
temperature increases, the alteration of thermal sand characteristics 
of beaches (from warming temperatures), which could result in the 
reduction or cessation of male hatchling production (Hawkes et al., 
2009; Poloczanska et al., 2009), and a significant rise in sea level, 
which could significantly restrict green turtle nesting habitat. While 
sea turtles have survived past eras that have included significant 
temperature fluctuations, future climate change is expected to happen 
at unprecedented rates, and if turtles cannot adapt quickly they may 
face local to widespread extirpations (Hawkes et al., 2009). Impacts 
from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to 
become more apparent in future years (IPCC, 2007). However, at the 
primary nesting beach in Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico (Colola), the beach 
slope aspect is extremely steep and the dune surface at which the vast 
majority of nests are laid is well-elevated. This site is likely 
buffered against short-term sea level rise as a result of climate 
change. In addition, many nesting sites are along protected beach 
faces, out of tidal surge pathways. For example, multiple nesting sites 
in Costa Rica and in the Gal[aacute]pagos Islands are on beaches that 
are protected from major swell coming in from the ocean.

[[Page 15330]]

    Within Factor E, we find that fishery bycatch that occurs 
throughout the eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly bycatch mortality of 
green turtles from nearshore gill net fisheries, is a significant 
threat to the persistence of this DPS.

C. Conservation Efforts for the East Pacific DPS

    There are a multitude of NGOs and conservation networks whose 
efforts are raising awareness about sea turtle conservation.
    Protection of green turtles is provided by local marine reserves 
throughout the region. In addition, sea turtles may benefit from the 
following broader regional efforts: (1) The Eastern Tropical Pacific 
(ETP) Marine Corridor (CMAR) Initiative supported by the governments of 
Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador, which is a voluntary 
agreement to work towards sustainable use and conservation of marine 
resources in these countries' waters; (2) the ETP Seascape Program 
managed by Conservation International that supports cooperative marine 
management in the ETP, including implementation of the CMAR; (3) the 
IATTC and its bycatch reduction efforts that are among the world's 
finest for regional fisheries management organizations; (4) the IAC, 
which is designed to lessen impacts on sea turtles from fisheries and 
other human impacts; and (5) the Permanent Commission of the South 
Pacific (Lima Convention), which has developed an ``Action Plan for Sea 
Turtles in the Southeast Pacific.''
    There are indications that wildlife enforcement branches of local 
and national governments are stepping up their efforts to enforce 
existing laws, although successes in stemming sea turtle exploitation 
through legal channels are few and far between.

D. Extinction Risk Assessment and Findings for the East Pacific DPS

    The East Pacific DPS is characterized by moderate levels of green 
turtle nesting abundance (>20,000 nesting females) occurring in three 
primary regions, with Mexico having the largest number of nesting 
females at several sites (13,664 nesting females), followed by the 
Gal[aacute]pagos, Ecuador (3,603 nesting females), and Costa Rica 
(2,826 nesting females distributed among 26 nesting sites). Although 
trend information is lacking for the vast majority of sites, 25 years 
of monitoring at Michoac[aacute]n, Mexico--the largest nesting 
aggregation in this DPS--shows an increasing trend since the 
population's low point in the mid-1980s. In addition to Mexico, data 
from the Gal[aacute]pagos Archipelago suggest a stable trend, and the 
largest-ever nesting numbers reported in Costa Rica suggest this site 
may be on the increase as well.
    Genetic and demographic data show some substructuring among the 
populations, and nesting is well-distributed in the East Pacific DPS, 
occurring from the tip of the Baja California Peninsula to northern 
Peru. Such a broad latitudinal range may be advantageous to green 
turtles in this DPS in the face of global climate change. Likewise, 
with year round nesting at several sites and non-overlapping nesting 
seasons at others, it appears that this DPS may benefit from nesting 
season temporal diversity in relation to population resilience. Lastly, 
nesting at both continental and insular sites provides a degree of 
diversity as well as resilience, with some insular sites providing 
relatively threat-free nesting refugia within this DPS's range.
    Nevertheless, green turtles continue to be affected by a variety of 
threats within the range of the East Pacific DPS. These include harvest 
of eggs and turtles for food and non-food uses, bycatch in coastal and 
offshore marine fisheries gear, coastal development, beachfront 
lighting, and heavy foot traffic. Although the situation has improved 
to some extent, the harvest of turtles and their eggs continues 
throughout much of the range, although more problematic outside of the 
Gal[aacute]pagos Islands, particularly in Central America (egg harvest) 
and Mexico (harvest of foraging turtles). Mortality from diseases such 
as FP is not a problem in the Eastern Pacific, but depredation by 
natural predators is a very large concern, particularly in the 
Gal[aacute]pagos and, to a lesser extent, in Costa Rica. Green turtle 
interactions and mortalities with coastal and offshore fisheries in the 
eastern Pacific region are of concern and are considered an impediment 
to green turtle recovery in the East Pacific DPS. Yet despite these 
concerns, the largest nesting sites appear to be increasing.
    Conservation actions, national laws, and international instruments 
have provided the foundation for what appears to be an ongoing 
population recovery in the region, particularly in Mexico, although 
work remains to ensure continued recovery. Further, our analysis did 
not consider the scenario in which current laws or regulatory 
mechanisms were not continued. Given the conservation dependence of the 
species, without mechanisms in place to continue conservation efforts 
and funding streams in this DPS, some threats could increase and 
population trends could be affected.
    For the above reasons, we propose to list the East Pacific DPS as 
threatened. We do not find the DPS to be in danger of extinction 
presently because of high nesting abundance and increasing trends; 
however, the continued threats from coastal and offshore fisheries are 
likely to endanger the DPS within the foreseeable future.

XVIII. Proposed Determinations

    Section 4(b)(1) of the ESA requires that the Services make listing 
determinations based solely on the best scientific and commercial data 
available after conducting a review of the status of the species and 
taking into account those efforts, if any, being made by any state or 
foreign nation, or political subdivisions thereof, to protect and 
conserve the species (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(1)). We have reviewed the best 
available scientific and commercial information, including information 
included in the petition, the status review report, and other published 
and unpublished information; and we have consulted with species experts 
and individuals familiar with green turtles and their habitat.
    Based on the best available scientific and commercial information, 
we identify 11 green turtle DPSs: Central North Pacific, North 
Atlantic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North 
Indian, East Indian-West Pacific, Central West Pacific, Southwest 
Pacific, Central South Pacific, and East Pacific. We find that the 
purposes of the Act would be furthered by managing this wide-ranging 
species as separate units under the DPS authority, in order to allow 
for enhanced protections where needed. Based on a review of the five 
factors contained in ESA section 4(a)(1), we find that the best 
available science supports the listing status of ``endangered'' for 
three of the DPSs and therefore conclude that the species as a whole no 
longer meets the definition of a ``threatened species'' throughout its 
range. We propose to remove the current species-wide listing and to 
list 11 DPSs as threatened or endangered. We propose to list the North 
Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East Indian-
West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East 
Pacific DPSs as threatened, and the Mediterranean, Central West 
Pacific, and Central South Pacific DPSs as endangered for the reasons 
described above for each DPS.
    Regarding the February 16, 2012 petition from the Association of 
Hawaiian Civic Clubs to identify the Hawaiian green turtle population 
as a DPS and ``delist'' the DPS under the

[[Page 15331]]

ESA, as described above we conclude that the petitioned entity 
qualifies as a DPS (Central North Pacific DPS), but that the DPS should 
be listed as threatened for the reasons discussed above. We therefore 
deny the petition seeking its delisting.

XIX. Significant Portion of the Range

    Under the ESA and our implementing regulations, a species may 
warrant listing if it is endangered or threatened throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. See the Final Policy on 
Interpretation of the Phrase ``Significant Portion of Its Range'' in 
the Endangered Species Act's Definitions of ``Endangered Species'' and 
``Threatened Species'' (79 FR 37577, July 1, 2014). Under that policy, 
we only need to consider whether listing may be appropriate on the 
basis of the ``significant portion of its range'' language if the 
rangewide analysis does not lead to a determination to list as 
threatened or endangered. Because we have determined that each DPS of 
green turtle is either threatened or endangered throughout all of its 
range, no portion of its range can be ``significant'' for purposes of 
the definitions of ``endangered species'' and ``threatened species.''

XX. Effects of Listing

    Conservation measures provided for species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the ESA include, but are not limited to, recovery 
plans and actions (prepared pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1536(f)) and the 
actions recommended in them; designation of critical habitat if prudent 
and determinable (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(A)(i)); Federal agency 
requirements to consult with the Services and to ensure its actions are 
not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or 
result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated 
critical habitat (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)); and prohibitions on taking (16 
U.S.C. 1538). Recognition of the species' plight through listing 
promotes conservation actions by Federal and state agencies, foreign 
entities, private groups, and individuals. Should the proposed listings 
be made final, a recovery plan or plans may be developed, unless we 
find that such plan would not promote the conservation of the species.

A. Identifying Section 7 Conference and Consultation Requirements

    Section 7(a)(4) (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(4)) of the ESA and its 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 402) require Federal agencies to 
confer with the Services on actions likely to jeopardize the continued 
existence of species proposed for listing, or that result in the 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. If a 
proposed species is ultimately listed, section 7(a)(2) requires Federal 
agencies to consult with the Services on any action they authorize, 
fund, or carry out if those actions may affect the listed species or 
its critical habitat; Federal agencies must insure that such actions 
are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the species or 
result in destruction or adverse modification of designated critical 
habitat (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2); 50 CFR 402). Because green turtles are 
currently listed throughout their range, requirements for initiating 
consultation will not change if the current listing is reclassified and 
revised to reflect recognition of multiple DPSs. Examples of Federal 
actions that affect green turtles include, but are not limited to: 
Dredging and channelization, beach and nearshore construction, pile-
driving, water quality standards, power plants, vessel traffic, 
military activities, and fisheries management practices.

B. Critical Habitat

    Section 3(5)(A) of the ESA defines critical habitat as ``(i) the 
specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species, at 
the time it is listed . . . on which are found those physical or 
biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species 
and (II) which may require special management considerations or 
protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographical area 
occupied by the species at the time it is listed . . . upon a 
determination by the Secretary that such areas are essential for the 
conservation of the species (16 U.S.C. 1532(5)).'' Section 3(3) of the 
ESA also defines the terms ``conserve,'' ``conserving,'' and 
``conservation'' to mean ``to use and the use of all methods and 
procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or 
threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant 
to this chapter Act are no longer necessary (16 U.S.C. 1532(3)).''
    Section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of the ESA, as amended, and implementing 
regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)), require that, to the maximum extent 
prudent and determinable, the Secretary shall designate critical 
habitat at the time the species is determined to be an endangered or 
threatened species. Designations of critical habitat must be based on 
the best scientific data available and must take into consideration the 
economic, national security, and other relevant impacts of specifying 
any particular area as critical habitat (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(2)). The 
Services' regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(1)) state that the designation 
of critical habitat is not prudent when one or both of the following 
situations exist: (1) The species is threatened by taking or other 
human activity, and identification of critical habitat can be expected 
to increase the degree of threat to the species, or (2) such 
designation of critical habitat would not be beneficial to the species.
    The identification and mapping of critical habitat is not expected 
to increase the degree of threat from human activity, such as take of 
turtles or eggs. In the absence of finding that the designation of 
critical habitat would increase threats to a species, a finding that 
designation may be prudent is warranted if there are any benefits to a 
critical habitat designation. Here, the potential benefits of 
designation would include (1) Triggering consultation under section 7 
of the ESA for Federal actions in unoccupied designated critical 
habitat; (2) focusing conservation activities on the most essential 
features and areas; (3) providing educational benefits to State or 
county governments or private entities; and (4) preventing people from 
causing inadvertent harm to the species.
    Because we have determined that the designation of critical habitat 
will not likely increase the degree of threat to the species and may 
provide some measure of benefit, we determine that designation of 
critical habitat may be prudent for the green turtle, subject to review 
of information in connection with the designation.
    Our regulations (50 CFR 424.12(a)(2)) state that critical habitat 
is not determinable when one or both of the following situations 
exists: (1) Information sufficient to perform required analysis of the 
impacts of the designation is lacking; or (2) the biological needs of 
the species are not sufficiently well known to permit identification of 
an area as critical habitat. At this point, we are still in the process 
of acquiring the information needed to assess the critical habitat 
designation. Accordingly, we find designation of critical habitat to be 
not determinable at this time.
    A final regulation designating critical habitat is generally due 
concurrently with a final regulation listing a species as endangered or 
threatened (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(6)(C)). The statute does not mandate that 
the proposed rule to designate critical habitat has to be published 
concurrent with the proposed listing rule, and thus a proposed rule 
designating critical habitat may be

[[Page 15332]]

published following the proposed listing rule (but at least 90 days 
before the intended effective date of the rule (16 U.S.C. 
1533(b)(5)(A)). Upon a finding that designation of critical habitat is 
not determinable, the Services have an additional year to finalize a 
proposed critical habitat designation (16 U.S.C. 1533(b)(6)(C)(ii)). In 
effect, then, the Services have up to one year following final listing 
of the species to finalize a critical habitat designation where such 
habitat is initially not determinable. To ensure that the Services may 
make a timely proposal based on the best scientific and commercial 
information available, we invite public input on features and areas 
that may meet the definition of critical habitat for the DPSs proposed 
for listing that occur in U.S. waters or its territories. These include 
the North Atlantic (southeastern United States and Puerto Rico), South 
Atlantic (U.S. Virgin Islands), Central South Pacific (American Samoa), 
Central West Pacific (CNMI and Guam), Central North Pacific, and East 
Pacific DPSs (California).
    The Services previously designated critical habitat for green 
turtles in waters surrounding Culebra Island, Puerto Rico from the mean 
high water line seaward to 3 nautical miles (5.6 km; 63 FR 46693, 
September 2, 1998). These waters include Culebra's outlying Keys, 
including Cayo Norte, Cayo Ballena, Cayos Geniqu[iacute], Isla 
Culebrita, Arrecife Culebrita, Cayo de Luis Pe[ntilde]a, Las Hermanas, 
El Mono, Cayo Lobo, Cayo Lobito, Cayo Botijuela, Alcarraza, Los 
Gemelos, and Piedra Steven, and are within the range of the North 
Atlantic DPS.
    The ESA does not speak directly to the status of designated 
critical habitat when the agency later amends a species listing by 
dividing it into constituent DPSs. Notably, critical habitat does not 
lose its biological and conservation relevance to the relevant listed 
DPS (here, the North Atlantic) simply because the species listing is 
amended. Moreover, carrying forward an existing critical habitat 
designation can enhance the protection provided to the listed DPS 
because the carried-forward designation protects habitat features 
essential to the species' recovery from destruction or adverse 
modification in section 7 consultations. Given that Congress has not 
spoken directly to this issue in the statute, we find that the benefits 
of designated critical habitat, the ESA's broad purpose to conserve the 
ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend, and 
taking a reasonable precautionary approach, the ESA should be construed 
to provide in these circumstances for keeping existing critical habitat 
designation in place as a transitional matter until the designation is 
re-promulgated or amended through a further rulemaking. Therefore, 
critical habitat remains in effect for the listed North Atlantic DPS in 
order to preserve its conservation value, as the designated critical 
habitat continues to support the DPS's important biological functions 
(e.g., foraging habitat, developmental habitat, and shelter/refuge from 
predators). The Services have not designated critical habitat within 
the range of the other ten green turtle DPSs.

C. Take Prohibitions

    All of the take prohibitions of section 9(a)(1) of the ESA (16 
U.S.C. Sec.  1538(a)(1)) will automatically apply to the three DPSs 
proposed to be listed as endangered, the Mediterranean, Central West 
Pacific and Central South Pacific, if the proposal to list them as 
endangered is finalized. These include prohibitions against importing, 
exporting, engaging in foreign or interstate commerce, or ``taking'' of 
the species. ``Take'' is defined under the ESA as ``to harass, harm, 
pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt 
to engage in any such conduct (16 U.S.C. Sec.  1532(19)).'' These 
prohibitions apply to any ``person'' (as defined by the ESA) subject to 
the jurisdiction of the United States, including in the United States, 
its territorial sea, or on the high seas. Certain exceptions apply to 
employees of the Services, other Federal land management agencies, and 
State conservation agencies. In addition, 50 CFR part 224.104 would 
apply to the proposed endangered DPSs. Some of the current provisions 
apply only to areas in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Atlantic; however, 
future provisions may apply to any endangered DPS, without regard to 
its geographic boundaries.
    In the case of threatened species, ESA section 4(d) authorizes the 
Secretary to issue regulations deemed necessary and appropriate for the 
conservation of species. The Services already have in place take 
prohibitions and exceptions that apply to threatened species of sea 
turtles, set forth at 50 CFR 17.42(b), 223.205, 223.206, and 223.207. 
These existing take prohibitions and exceptions will continue to remain 
in effect and apply to those DPSs listed as threatened, which are the 
North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southwest Indian, North Indian, East 
Indian-West Pacific, Southwest Pacific, Central North Pacific, and East 
Pacific DPSs.
    Pursuant to section 10 of the ESA, we may issue permits to carry 
out otherwise prohibited activities involving endangered and threatened 
wildlife under certain circumstances. Regulations governing permits are 
codified at 50 CFR 17.22 and 50 CFR 223.206. With regard to endangered 
wildlife, a permit may be issued for the following purposes: For 
scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the 
species, and for incidental take in connection with otherwise lawful 
activities. There are also certain statutory exemptions from the 
prohibitions, which are found in sections 9 and 10 of the ESA.

D. Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a Violation 
of Section 9 of the ESA

    On July 1, 1994, the Services published a policy (59 FR 34272) that 
requires us to identify, to the maximum extent practicable at the time 
a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 
constitute a violation of section 9 of the ESA. The intent of this 
policy is to increase public awareness of the effect of a listing on 
proposed and ongoing activities within a species' range. We will 
identify, to the extent known at the time of the final rule, those 
specific activities that, although they may appear to pose impacts to 
the species, will not be considered likely to result in violation of 
section 9, as well as activities that will be considered likely to 
result in violation. Based on currently available information, we 
conclude that the activities most likely to violate the section 9 
prohibitions against ``take'' of endangered green turtle DPSs include, 
but are not limited to, the following: (1) Importation or exportation 
of any part of a green turtle or green turtle eggs; (2) directed take 
of green turtles, including fishing for, capturing, handling, or 
possessing green turtles, eggs, or parts; (3) sale of green turtles, 
eggs, or parts; (4) destruction or modification of green turtle 
habitat, including nesting beaches, beaches used for basking, and 
developmental, foraging habitat, and migratory habitat that actually 
kills or injures green turtles (50 CFR 222.102); and (5) indirect take 
of green turtles in the course of otherwise lawful activities, such as 
fishing, dredging, coastal construction, vessel traffic, and discharge 
of pollutants. We emphasize that whether a violation results from a 
particular activity depends upon the facts and circumstances of each 
incident. The mere fact that an activity may fall within one of these 
categories does not mean that the specific activity will cause a 
violation; due to such factors as location and scope, specific actions 
may not result in direct or indirect adverse effects on the species. 
Further, an

[[Page 15333]]

activity not listed may in fact result in a violation. We also 
emphasize that because the green turtle is currently listed, we do not 
anticipate changes in the activities that would constitute a violation 
of section 9. Possible exceptions include those actions affecting the 
breeding populations in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico, which 
were heretofore listed as endangered. Under the final rule, these 
populations would become part of the threatened North Atlantic and East 
Pacific DPSs, respectively, and therefore will be protected by the 
existing protective regulations.

XXI. Peer Review

    The intent of the peer review policy is to ensure that listings are 
based on the best scientific and commercial data available. In December 
2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Final 
Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review establishing minimum peer 
review standards, a transparent process for public disclosure of peer 
review planning, and opportunities for public participation. The OMB 
Bulletin, implemented under the Information Quality Act (Public Law 
106-554), is intended to enhance the quality and credibility of the 
Federal government's scientific information, and applies to influential 
or highly influential scientific information disseminated on or after 
June 16, 2005. To satisfy our requirements under the OMB Bulletin, we 
obtained independent peer review of the status review report from 15 
independent specialists in the academic and scientific community. All 
peer reviewer comments were addressed prior to dissemination of the 
final status review report and publication of this proposed rule.

XXII. Classification

A. National Environmental Policy Act

    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 
information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. 
Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the 
opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 657 F. 2d 829 (6th Cir. 
1981), NOAA has concluded that ESA listing actions are not subject to 
the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental 
Policy Act (See NOAA Administrative Order 216-6). Similarly, USFWS has 
determined that environmental assessments and environmental impact 
statements, as defined under the authority of the National 
Environmental Policy Act, need not be prepared in connection with 
regulations pursuant to section 4(a) of the ESA. USFWS published a 
notice outlining its reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

B. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork 
Reduction Act

    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 
ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered when assessing the status of 
a species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to the listing process. 
In addition, this proposed rule is exempt from review under Executive 
Order 12866. This proposed rule does not contain a collection-of-
information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction 
Act.

C. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

    In accordance with E.O. 13132, we determined that this proposed 
rule does not have significant Federalism effects and that a Federalism 
assessment is not required. In keeping with the intent of the 
Administration and Congress to provide continuing and meaningful 
dialogue on issues of mutual state and Federal interest, this proposed 
rule will be given to the relevant state agencies in each state in 
which the species is believed to occur, and those states will be 
invited to comment on this proposal. We have considered, among other 
things, Federal, State, and local conservation measures. As we proceed, 
we intend to continue engaging in informal and formal contacts with the 
State, and other affected local or regional entities, giving careful 
consideration to all written and oral comments received.

List of Subjects

50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

50 CFR Parts 223 and 224

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, 
Transportation.

    Dated: March 11, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.
    Dated: February 25, 2015.
Stephen Guertin,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR parts 17, 223, and 
224 are proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 17--ENDANGERED AND THREATENED WILDLIFE AND PLANTS

0
1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 1531-1544; and 4201-4245, unless 
otherwise noted.

0
2. In Sec.  17.11(h) revise the entry for ``Sea turtle, green'', which 
is in alphabetical order under REPTILES, to read as follows:


Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) The ``List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife'' is provided 
below:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Species                                               Vertebrate
----------------------------------------------------                     population where                                   Critical
                                                       Historic range     endangered or      Status       When listed       habitat      Special rules
          Common name              Scientific name                          threatened
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
            Reptiles
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Sea turtle, green (Central       Chelonia mydas      Central North      Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 North Pacific DPS).                                  Pacific Ocean.     originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the Central                    PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         North Pacific                  FINAL RULE].
                                                                         Ocean, bounded
                                                                         by the following
                                                                         coordinates:
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         169[deg] E. in
                                                                         the northwest;
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         143[deg] W. in
                                                                         the northeast;
                                                                         9[deg] N.,
                                                                         125[deg] W. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         and 9[deg] N.,
                                                                         175[deg] W. in
                                                                         the southwest.

[[Page 15334]]

 
Sea turtle, green (Central       Chelonia mydas      Central South      Green sea turtles          E   [INSERT FR                  NA  224.104
 South Pacific DPS).                                  Pacific Ocean.     originating from               CITATION WHEN
                                                                         the Central                    PUBLISHED AS A
                                                                         South Pacific                  FINAL RULE].
                                                                         Ocean, bounded
                                                                         by the following
                                                                         coordinates:
                                                                         9[deg] N.,
                                                                         175[deg] W. in
                                                                         the northwest;
                                                                         9[deg] N.,
                                                                         125[deg] W. in
                                                                         the northeast;
                                                                         40[deg] S.,
                                                                         96[deg] W. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         40[deg] S.,
                                                                         176[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southwest;
                                                                         and 13[deg] S.,
                                                                         171[deg] E. in
                                                                         the west.
Sea turtle, green (Central West  Chelonia mydas      Central West       Green sea turtles          E   [INSERT FR                  NA  224.104
 Pacific DPS).                                        Pacific Ocean.     originating from               CITATION WHEN
                                                                         the Central West               PUBLISHED AS A
                                                                         Pacific Ocean,                 FINAL RULE].
                                                                         bounded by the
                                                                         following
                                                                         coordinates:
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         146[deg] E. in
                                                                         the northwest;
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         169[deg] E. in
                                                                         the northeast;
                                                                         9[deg] N.,
                                                                         175[deg] W. in
                                                                         the east;
                                                                         13[deg] S.,
                                                                         171[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         along the
                                                                         northern coast
                                                                         of the island of
                                                                         New Guinea; and
                                                                         4.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         129[deg] E. in
                                                                         the west.
Sea turtle, green (East Indian-  Chelonia mydas      Eastern Indian     Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 West Pacific DPS).                                   and Western        originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                      Pacific Oceans.    the Eastern                    PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Indian and                     FINAL RULE].
                                                                         Western Pacific
                                                                         Oceans, bounded
                                                                         by the following
                                                                         lines and
                                                                         coordinates:
                                                                         41[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                         in the north,
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         146[deg] E. in
                                                                         the northeast;
                                                                         4.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         129[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         along the
                                                                         southern coast
                                                                         of the island of
                                                                         New Guinea;
                                                                         along the
                                                                         western coast of
                                                                         Australia (west
                                                                         of 142[deg] E.
                                                                         Long.); 40[deg]
                                                                         S. Lat. in the
                                                                         south; and
                                                                         84[deg] E. Long.
                                                                         in the east.
Sea turtle, green (East Pacific  Chelonia mydas      East Pacific       Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 DPS).                                                Ocean              originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the East Pacific               PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Ocean, bounded                 FINAL RULE].
                                                                         by the following
                                                                         lines and
                                                                         coordinates:
                                                                         41[deg] N.,
                                                                         143[deg] W. in
                                                                         the northwest;
                                                                         41[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                         in the north;
                                                                         along the
                                                                         western coasts
                                                                         of the Americas;
                                                                         40[deg] S. Lat.
                                                                         in the south;
                                                                         and 40[deg] S.,
                                                                         96[deg] W. in
                                                                         the southwest.
Sea turtle, green                Chelonia mydas      Mediterranean Sea  Green sea turtles          E   [INSERT FR                  NA  224.104
 (Mediterranean DPS).                                                    originating from               CITATION WHEN
                                                                         the                            PUBLISHED AS A
                                                                         Mediterranean                  FINAL RULE].
                                                                         Sea, bounded by
                                                                         5.5[deg] W.
                                                                         Long. in the
                                                                         west.
Sea turtle, green (North         Chelonia mydas      North Atlantic     Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR             226.208  17.42(b),
 Atlantic DPS).                                       Ocean              originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the North                      PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Atlantic Ocean,                FINAL RULE].
                                                                         bounded by the
                                                                         following lines
                                                                         and coordinates:
                                                                         48[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                         in the north,
                                                                         along the
                                                                         western coasts
                                                                         of Europe and
                                                                         Africa (west of
                                                                         5.5[deg] W.
                                                                         Long.); north of
                                                                         19[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                         in the east;
                                                                         19[deg] N.,
                                                                         63.5[deg] W. in
                                                                         the south;
                                                                         10.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         77[deg] W. in
                                                                         the west; and
                                                                         along the
                                                                         eastern coasts
                                                                         of the Americas
                                                                         (north of
                                                                         7.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         77[deg] W.).
Sea turtle, green (North Indian  Chelonia mydas      North Indian       Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 DPS).                                                Ocean              originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the North Indian               PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Ocean, bounded                 FINAL RULE].
                                                                         by: Africa and
                                                                         Asia in the west
                                                                         and north;
                                                                         84[deg] E. Long.
                                                                         in the east; and
                                                                         the equator in
                                                                         the south.

[[Page 15335]]

 
Sea turtle, green (South         Chelonia mydas      South Atlantic     Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 Atlantic DPS).                                       Ocean              originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the South                      PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Atlantic Ocean,                FINAL RULE].
                                                                         bounded by the
                                                                         following lines
                                                                         and coordinates:
                                                                         along the
                                                                         northern and
                                                                         eastern coasts
                                                                         of South America
                                                                         (east of
                                                                         7.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         77[deg] W.);
                                                                         10.5[deg] N.,
                                                                         77[deg] W. in
                                                                         the west;
                                                                         19[deg] N.,
                                                                         63.5[deg] W. in
                                                                         the northwest;
                                                                         19[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                         in the
                                                                         northeast;
                                                                         40[deg] S.,
                                                                         19[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         and 40[deg] S.
                                                                         Lat. in the
                                                                         south.
Sea turtle, green (Southwest     Chelonia mydas      Southwest Indian   Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 Indian DPS).                                         Ocean              originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the Southwest                  PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Indian Ocean,                  FINAL RULE].
                                                                         bounded by the
                                                                         following lines:
                                                                         the equator to
                                                                         the north;
                                                                         84[deg] E. Long.
                                                                         to the east;
                                                                         40[deg] S. Lat.
                                                                         to the south;
                                                                         and 19[deg] E.
                                                                         Long (and along
                                                                         the eastern
                                                                         coast of Africa)
                                                                         in the west.
Sea turtle, green (Southwest     Chelonia mydas      Southwestern       Green sea turtles          T   [INSERT FR                  NA  17.42(b),
 Pacific DPS).                                        Pacific Ocean      originating from               CITATION WHEN                   223.205,
                                                                         the Southwestern               PUBLISHED AS A                  223.206, 223.207
                                                                         Pacific Ocean,                 FINAL RULE].
                                                                         bounded by the
                                                                         following lines
                                                                         and coordinates:
                                                                         along the
                                                                         southern coast
                                                                         of the island of
                                                                         New Guinea and
                                                                         the Torres
                                                                         Strait (east of
                                                                         142[deg] E
                                                                         Long.); 13[deg]
                                                                         S., 171[deg] E.
                                                                         in the
                                                                         northeast;
                                                                         40[deg] S.,
                                                                         176[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southeast;
                                                                         and 40[deg] S.,
                                                                         142[deg] E. in
                                                                         the southwest.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PART 223--THREATENED MARINE AND ANADROMOUS SPECIES

0
3. The authority citation for part 223 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543; subpart B, Sec.  223.201-202 
also issued under 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 5503(d) for 
Sec.  223.206(d)(9).

0
4. Amend the table in Sec.  223.102(e) by revising the entry ``Sea 
turtle, green'' under Sea Turtles to read as follows:


Sec.  223.102  Enumeration of threatened marine and anadromous species.

* * * * *
    (e) The threatened species under the jurisdiction of the Secretary 
of Commerce are:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        Species \1\
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Citation(s) for listing    Critical
                                                                  Description of listed         determination(s)       habitat           ESA Rules
             Common name                  Scientific name                 entity
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
           Sea Turtles \2\
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sea turtle, green (Central North      Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
 Pacific DPS).                                                  originating from the         WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Central North Pacific        FINAL RULE].
                                                                Ocean, bounded by the
                                                                following coordinates:
                                                                41[deg] N., 169[deg] E. in
                                                                the northwest; 41[deg] N.,
                                                                143[deg] W. in the
                                                                northeast; 9[deg] N.,
                                                                125[deg] W. in the
                                                                southeast; and 9[deg] N.,
                                                                175[deg] W in the
                                                                southwest.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[[Page 15336]]

 
Sea turtle, green (East Indian-West   Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
 Pacific DPS).                                                  originating from the         WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Eastern Indian and Western   FINAL RULE].
                                                                Pacific Oceans, bounded by
                                                                the following lines and
                                                                coordinates: 41[deg] N.
                                                                Lat. in the north, 41[deg]
                                                                N., 146[deg] E. in the
                                                                northeast; 4.5[deg] N.,
                                                                129[deg] E. in the
                                                                southeast; along the
                                                                southern coast of the
                                                                island of New Guinea;
                                                                along the western coast of
                                                                Australia (west of
                                                                142[deg] E. Long.);
                                                                40[deg] S. Lat. in the
                                                                south; and 84[deg] E.
                                                                Long. in the east.
Sea turtle, green (East Pacific DPS)  Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
                                                                originating from the East    WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Pacific Ocean, bounded by    FINAL RULE].
                                                                the following lines and
                                                                coordinates: 41[deg] N.,
                                                                143[deg] W. in the
                                                                northwest; 41[deg] N. Lat.
                                                                in the north; along the
                                                                western coasts of the
                                                                Americas; 40[deg] S. Lat.
                                                                in the south; and 40[deg]
                                                                S., 96[deg] W. in the
                                                                southwest.
Sea turtle, green (North Atlantic     Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION           226.08  17.42(b), 2223.205,
 DPS).                                                          originating from the North   WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Atlantic Ocean, bounded by   FINAL RULE].
                                                                the following lines and
                                                                coordinates: 48[deg] N.
                                                                Lat. in the north, along
                                                                the western coasts of
                                                                Europe and Africa (west of
                                                                5.5[deg] W. Long.); north
                                                                of 19[deg] N. Lat. in the
                                                                east; 19[deg] N.,
                                                                63.5[deg] W. in the south;
                                                                10.5[deg] N., 77[deg] W.
                                                                in the west; and along the
                                                                eastern coasts of the
                                                                Americas (north of
                                                                7.5[deg] N., 77[deg] W.).
Sea turtle, green (North Indian DPS)  Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
                                                                originating from the North   WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Indian Ocean, bounded by:    FINAL RULE].
                                                                Africa and Asia in the
                                                                west and north; 84[deg] E.
                                                                Long. in the east; and the
                                                                equator in the south.
Sea turtle, green (South Atlantic     Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
 DPS).                                                          originating from the South   WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Atlantic Ocean, bounded by   FINAL RULE].
                                                                the following lines and
                                                                coordinates: along the
                                                                northern and eastern
                                                                coasts of South America
                                                                (east of 7.5[deg] N.,
                                                                77[deg] W.); 10.5[deg] N.,
                                                                77[deg] W. in the west;
                                                                19[deg] N., 63.5[deg] W.
                                                                in the northwest; 19[deg]
                                                                N. Lat. in the northeast;
                                                                40[deg] S., 19[deg] E. in
                                                                the southeast; and 40[deg]
                                                                S. Lat. in the south.
Sea turtle, green (Southwest Indian   Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
 DPS).                                                          originating from the         WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Southwest Indian Ocean,      FINAL RULE].
                                                                bounded by the following
                                                                lines: the equator to the
                                                                north; 84[deg] E. Long. to
                                                                the east; 40[deg] S. Lat.
                                                                to the south; and 19[deg]
                                                                E. Long (and along the
                                                                eastern coast of Africa)
                                                                in the west.
Sea turtle, green (Southwest Pacific  Chelonia mydas.........  Green sea turtles            [INSERT FR CITATION               NA  17.42(b), 223.205,
 DPS).                                                          originating from the         WHEN PUBLISHED AS A                   223.206, 223.207.
                                                                Southwestern Pacific         FINAL RULE].
                                                                Ocean, bounded by the
                                                                following lines and
                                                                coordinates: along the
                                                                southern coast of the
                                                                island of New Guinea and
                                                                the Torres Strait (east of
                                                                142[deg] E Long.); 13[deg]
                                                                S., 171[deg] E. in the
                                                                northeast; 40[deg] S.,
                                                                176[deg] E. in the
                                                                southeast; and 40[deg] S.,
                                                                142[deg] E. in the
                                                                southwest.
 
                                                                      * * * * * * *
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Species includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPSs) (for a policy statement, see 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and
  evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) (for a policy statement, see 56 FR 58612, November 20, 1991).
\2\Jurisdiction for sea turtles by the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, is
  limited to turtles while in the water.


[[Page 15337]]

PART 224--ENDANGERED MARINE AND ANADROMOUS SPECIES

0
5. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

0
6. Amend Sec.  224.101(h) by revising the entry for ``Sea turtle, 
green'' under Sea Turtles to read as follows:


Sec.  224.101  Enumeration of endangered marine and anadromous species.

* * * * *
    (h) The endangered species under the jurisdiction of the Secretary 
of Commerce are:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                              Species \1\
-----------------------------------------------------------------------  Citation(s) for    Critical
                                                 Description of listed       listing         habitat   ESA rules
         Common name            Scientific name          entity          determination(s)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
       Sea Turtles \2\
 
Sea turtle, green (Central     Chelonia mydas..  Green sea turtles      [INSERT FR                NA     224.104
 South Pacific DPS).                              originating from the   CITATION WHEN
                                                  Central South          PUBLISHED AS A
                                                  Pacific Ocean,         FINAL RULE].
                                                  bounded by the
                                                  following
                                                  coordinates: 9[deg]
                                                  N., 175[deg] W. in
                                                  the northwest;
                                                  9[deg] N., 125[deg]
                                                  W. in the northeast;
                                                  40[deg] S., 96[deg]
                                                  W. in the southeast;
                                                  40[deg] S., 176[deg]
                                                  E. in the southwest;
                                                  and 13[deg] S.,
                                                  171[deg] E. in the
                                                  west.
Sea turtle, green (Central     Chelonia mydas..  Green sea turtles      [INSERT FR                NA     224.104
 West Pacific DPS).                               originating from the   CITATION WHEN
                                                  Central West Pacific   PUBLISHED AS A
                                                  Ocean, bounded by      FINAL RULE].
                                                  the following
                                                  coordinates: 41[deg]
                                                  N., 146[deg] E. in
                                                  the northwest;
                                                  41[deg] N., 169[deg]
                                                  E. in the northeast;
                                                  9[deg] N., 175[deg]
                                                  W. in the east;
                                                  13[deg] S., 171[deg]
                                                  E. in the southeast;
                                                  along the northern
                                                  coast of the island
                                                  of New Guinea; and
                                                  4.5[deg] N.,
                                                  129[deg] E. in the
                                                  west.
Sea turtle, green              Chelonia mydas..  Green sea turtles      [INSERT FR                NA     224.104
 (Mediterranean DPS).                             originating from the   CITATION WHEN
                                                  Mediterranean Sea,     PUBLISHED AS A
                                                  bounded by 5.5[deg]    FINAL RULE].
                                                  W. Long. in the west.
 
                                                  * * * * * * *
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ Species includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPSs) (for a policy statement,
  see 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) (for a policy statement, see 56
  FR 58612, November 20, 1991).
\2\ Jurisdiction for sea turtles by the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
  National Marine Fisheries Service, is limited to turtles while in the water.

[FR Doc. 2015-06136 Filed 3-20-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P