The species is known to live along the coasts of more than 140 countries, with the largest nesting populations found at Tortuguero, in Costa Rica, and Raine Island, in Australia, according to NOAA. There are an estimated 571,220 nesting females around the world, Discovery News reports.
NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the status change Tuesday that successful conservation efforts are responsible for green sea turtles of Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico being reclassified from endangered to threatened. As a threatened species, the green sea turtles will remain under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
NOAA administrator for fisheries Eileen Sobeck says in a news release that efforts developed in Florida and Mexico are a roadmap for further recovery strategies of green turtle populations around the world. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says in the release that the reclassification shows how partnerships between various government agencies and other originations are making a real difference for imperiled species.
Historically, the global decline in green sea turtle populations has been fueled by harvesting eggs and adult individuals, according to NOAA. Other threats include incidental catch in fishing gear, plastic marine debris, habitat loss, climate change and a debilitating tumor-causing disease called fibropapillomatosis.
The status change comes nearly four decades after green turtles were first listed, in 1978. In March 2015, responding to a petition from the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, the two federal agencies kicked off a lengthy review of the green sea turtle’s global status. The species has since been divided into 11 separate populations, which NOAA says allows for “tailored conservation approaches.” Eight populations have been classified as threatened. Three — the Mediterranean, Central West Pacific and Central South Pacific — remain endangered.