WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- The Obama administration has agreed to protect an area of Pacific coastal waters as critical habitat for the endangered leatherback sea turtle.
In a settlement of a lawsuit by conservation groups, the government agreed to designate 70,600 square miles of ocean as a refuge for both the migrating reptiles and the jellyfish that are their main food source, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.
The designated zone would extend from Point Vicente in Los Angeles County to Point Arena in Mendocino County.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups filed a lawsuit in April accusing the government of ignoring a January 2011 deadline set under an earlier settlement by the National Marine Fisheries Service for a designation of critical habitat.
Leatherbacks, which can grow to 8 feet long and weigh as much as a ton, were placed on the endangered species list in 1970, but their numbers have continued to fall because of pollution and accidental deaths caused by commercial fishing, government reports have said.
The turtles have one of the longest migrations of any animal, around 12,000 miles from nesting grounds in Indonesia to the West Coast of the United States.