Last week, regulators with NOAA designated 41,914 square miles of marine habitat along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California as "critical habitat" for the endangered leatherback sea turtle. This new designation means that development projects along the West Coast must consider and avoid impacts on the turtles and the jellyfish they eat.
The North Pacific population of leatherbacks swim 6,000 miles between the beaches of Indonesia, where they lay their eggs, and the US West Coast where they forage for food, primarily jellyfish.
According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The regulations will restrict projects that harm the turtles or the gelatinous delicacies they devour. The government will be required to review and, if necessary, regulate agricultural waste, pollution, oil spills, power plants, oil drilling, storm-water runoff and liquid natural gas projects along the California coast between Santa Barbara and Mendocino counties and off the Oregon and Washington coasts.
Aquaculture, tidal, wave turbine, desalination projects and nuclear power plants will have to consider impacts on jellyfish and sea turtles. For instance, the repermitting of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, in San Luis Obispo, will probably come under scrutiny.
While we know that sea turtles can mistake plastic bags for jellyfish (with deadly results) these new protections will not impact the use or disposal of those bags.