Leatherback Sea Turtle
In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must designate critical habitat for each species under its jurisdiction listed under the ESA. Critical habitat is defined as “specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservations, and those features may require special management considerations for protection” and “specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.”
In 1998, NMFS designated critical habitat for leatherback turtles in the coastal waters surrounding Sandy Point, St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. In 2010, NMFS proposed expanding the critical habitat to include two areas in the eastern Pacific, one off the coastof Washington and Oregon and the other off the coast of California. This critical habitat designation along the US west coast was finalized on February 27, 2012.