The federal government has recommended an endangered-species listing for the loggerhead turtles swimming off the Atlantic Ocean coast, a decision that could have big implications for the fishing industry.
The listing was proposed Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for seven species of loggerheads.
The NOAA's fisheries division says one of the biggest threats to loggerheads is fishing gear. Environmental groups say the proposal marks a turning point for turtle protection by requiring new measures to prevent turtles from getting caught in the gear.
The proposal is open to public comment and could be in effect by summer 2011.
The slow-maturing loggerheads typically are more than 3 feet long and weigh about 250 pounds.
Just last month The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Center on Topsail Island filed suit in federal court against the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries, claiming the agency has issued permits that "have resulted in the illegal take of estimated thousands of protected sea turtles".