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By CURTIS MORGAN
The loggerhead turtle may be elevated to a federally endangered species, in large part because nesting on Florida beaches has dropped by half over the past decade.
In a notice published Wednesday in the Federal Register, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that officials will review the turtle population and a change in the current threatened status ``may be warranted.''
This review was ordered in response to a petition and data filed in November 2007 by two environmental groups, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The groups argue the turtle is at increasing risk of extinction from climate change, commercial fishing practices, beach development, pollution and others threats. Federal designation could result in new protections for beach nesting areas, fishing rules or other changes.
''If we don't act soon, sea turtles may go the way of the dinosaurs,'' Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release.
All five turtles that feed or nest in Florida waters are listed as either threatened or endangered -- the loggerhead, green, hawksbill, leatherback and Kemp's Ridley. The agencies will accept comment on the proposed change until May 5.
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