Endangered turtle gains protections off West Coast

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The National Marine Fisheries Service has designated more than 41,000 square miles off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington as critical habitat for endangered leatherback sea turtles.

The habitat is where the leatherbacks feed on jellyfish after swimming thousands of miles across the ocean from nesting grounds in Indonesia, Australia and Mexico.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest marine turtle in the world, weighing up to 2,000 pounds and stretching 8 feet long. The turtles have been listed as endangered since 1970.

The protection is effective Feb. 25. Some environmental groups say it falls short and should be nearly twice as large. Groups including the Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal agency in 2009 after it missed a deadline to designate the area as a safety zone.