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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some federal agencies are stepping up and proposing new ways to protect loggerhead sea turtles. But the possible new regulations are getting strong opposition from area beaches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will hold two public hearings to discuss whether to designate certain areas of our coast as critical marine habitats for loggerhead sea turtles.

Specific areas include 36 occupied marine areas along the coast that contain nearshore reproductive habitats, winter areas, breeding areas, and migratory corridors.

Supporters say this could mean better protection for our loggerhead sea turtles, but other say they are already doing enough to protect them.

“We already go through the planning, the permitting, the consultation. We do all that now,” New Hanover County Shore Protection Coordiator Layton Bedsole said. “We don’t understand why this additional layer of regulatory stipulations. Whatever they may be, we don’t understand the need for it.”

Bedsole is in charge of New Hanover County’s beaches. He says more regulations could have an economic impact, but a turtle advocate says she thinks it’s a great idea.

“I think we can always do a better job on our beaches,” said Nancy Fahey of the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project. “We already have safety measures in place for the federal projects that go on on our beaches, such as renourishment and the dredging, so I really don’t think it’s going to have economic impact.”

But Bedsole insists that a healthy beach economy means a healthy habitat for turtles.

“People flock to our beaches for various reasons. Many come in hopes of seeing a nest boil. In hopes of seeing the baby turtles come through the sand and make their way to the beach,” he said. “A healthy strand for tourism is also a healthy strand for the habitat for the turtles to nest in.”

Tonight’s meeting is at UNCW’s Warwick Center from 7 to 9 p.m.

Tomorrow’s meeting is in Morehead City.

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