Two species of turtles that saw the dinosaur come and go from the earth were placed on the endangered species list by the Commerce Department yesterday.
The department also moved to protect a third species that is being threatened.
The two added to the endangered list were the green turtle and olive ridley turtle. The green turtle, which weighs 350 pounds and has long clippers, lives in Florida and the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The olive ridley turtle, which weighs a mere 70 pounds and has a triangular head, also lives along the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
The department also placed the loggerhead turtle on the threatened list. The loggerhead lives along the south Atlantic coast.
Fishermen who accidentally catch animals on the threatened list are not penalized; fishermen who accidentally catch animals on the endangered list have committed a crime.
The regulation could hurt shrimp fishermen, who often find turtles in their nets.
Richard Frank, administrator of the department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the department will spend $500,000 on research to develop excluder panels - mesh nets with large holes - that will enable turtles to swim out of the trawls.
"The excluder panels should help the shrimp industry," said Peter Pritchard of the Florida Audubon Society. "Having a 400-pound turtle thrashing around in your net isn't likely to make your shrimp marketable."
Killing sea turtles for subsistence will be banned in Guam, Samoa, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Residents of the Yap Islands will be allowed to take sea turtles for subsistence because the hunt "plays a major role in traditional culture," Frank said.
Scientists believe that only 100 green turtles live in Florida, where they once were abundant. Mexican hunters reportedly killed 70,000 olive ridley turtles last year out of an estimated 150,000.
Frank loggerhead population is estimated to be between 25,000 and 50,000.
Frank said the turtle populations declined because of commercial exploitation for turtle meat and turtle leather, and because of construction of condominiums and apartments at turtle nesting areas.
Environmental groups have been pushing the department to place the turtles on endangered lists since the early 1970s. But action was postponed because of a dispute between the Commerce and Interior Departments over which agency had jurisdiction over turtles. Last year, the Commerce Department agreed to take responsibility for turtles while they were in water and the Interior Department took responsibility for them on land.