Defining the geographic range of a population of sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean is difficult. Sea turtles are highly migratory, and the life histories of all species exhibit complex movements and migrations through geographically disparate habitats. Because the U.S. Pacific Sea Turtle Recovery Team is required to focus on sea turtle populations that reside within U.S. jurisdiction, we must delineate what constitutes a population where individuals reside permanently or temporarily within U.S. jurisdiction and what actions must be taken to restore that population. This has proven to be quite challenging because sea turtles do not recognize arbitrary national boundaries and in most cases we have only limited data on stock ranges and movements of the various populations. In this recovery plan we have tried to make these judgements with the best information available, and to suggest means by which the United States can promote population recovery.
Geographic scope (from a U.S. jurisdictional perspective) for all six of the U.S. Pacific sea turtle recovery plans (written for five species and one regionally important population) is defined as follows: in the eastern Pacific, the west coast of the continental United States (Figure 1a); in the central Pacific, the state of Hawaii and the unincorporated U.S. territories of Howland, Baker, Wake, Jarvis, and Midway Islands, Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, and Kingman Reef; in Oceania, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and American Samoa (see Figure 1b). The U.S.-affiliated but independent nations of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Republic of Palau are also included. The FSM includes the states of Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Kosrae. While independent, all retain clearly defined administrative links to the United States in the areas of defense, natural resource management, and some regulatory issues. Thus, we include them here in an advisory capacity. Finally, where eastern Pacific sea turtles are held in common with Mexico, discussion of the status and recovery of these stocks will also include discussion of the resource under Mexican jurisdiction. In all cases where U.S. sea turtle stocks are held in common with other sovereign states, we have tried to suggest means by which the United States can support efforts at management of those stocks by those states. We recognize that other nations may have different priorities than the United States and we have sincerely attempted to avoid establishing policy for those nations.
Because of the highly migratory behavior of adult turtles, and the likelihood of shifting habitat requirements of post-hatchlings and juveniles, the populations of East Pacific green turtles, Chelonia mydas, in the Pacific Ocean cross international boundaries.
The west coasts of Central America, Mexico and the United States constitute a shared habitat for East Pacific green turtles. The following discussions acknowledge the extended range of East Pacific green turtles by incorporating relevant biological information from within and without U.S. political jurisdiction.