Cape Hatteras, off North Carolina, is where both loggerhead turtles and offshore workers thrive. The turtles use the waters for migration; the workers use them for dredging and energy projects.
But now the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is hearing a proposal to preserve the area for the endangered loggerheads, and workers are becoming concerned over the future of their sea-bound livelihoods.
"It's just an environmental agenda being pushed without a goal," James Reibel, a member of the board of directors for the Commission for Working Watermen, told the PilotOnline.com. "Right now they don't know how many turtles there are. We need to have a goalpost."
The critical-habitat designation along North Carolina's seaboard could entail higher costs and longer schedules for dredging and energy projects, according to John Skvarla, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
On the other hand, Lorna Patrick, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says, "We really believe we're not going to see a difference. We've been doing this so long we believe most of the regulations are in place."
Loggerheads made the endangered species list in 1978 and are considered threatened along the southeastern seaboard by the NMFS. Although the turtles set nesting records this past season along the coast—enough to block access to Hatteras beaches—biologists are more interested in long-term trends, Patrick says.
If the proposal goes through, the loggerhead will join the piping plover, a shorebird, in claiming sections of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and requiring federal permits for certain activities there, potentially costing $150,000 annually.