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Permanently protect Hope Spot Hatteras before it's too late

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Hope Spot Hatteras is located in the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina, USA beginning in the southeastern corner of Virginia Beach to the southern tip of Ocracoke Island. Roughly 85% of the islands belongs to Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Hatteras was designated a Hope Spot in 2016 through Sylvia Earle's nonprofit organization, Mission Blue. While this designation confirms Hatteras's critical role in the health of our oceans, it does not grant formal protection. We ask you to urge President Obama to grant Hope Spot Hatteras permanent, formal protection before he is no longer in office. 

According to the literature, Hope Spot Hatteras has the highest density and biodiversity of marine mammals along the east coast. However, one of the unique characteristics of Hope Spot Hatteras is its proximity to the continental slope, roughly 40 miles offshore, making it the closest landmass to the slope on the entire east coast. Unfortunately, this makes it a prime spot for seismic testing and offshore drilling. 

Hope Spot Hatteras is one of the most important fishing sites on the entire east coast. It hosts, among others, the spotted sea trout, striped bass, king mackerel, spot fish, flounder, Northern and Southern kingfish, grey trout, croaker, speckled trout, bluefish, Red Drum, cobia, and blue and white marlin, tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi. The great variety of fish found in the region make it a popular area for fishing charters.

Numerous species of marine mammals are known to visit this region to forage for food. Many of these species are federally protected and listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) including: the sperm, North Atlantic right, humpback, sei, fin, and blue whales. Other marine ESA-listed species that have been documented in this area are the critically endangered leatherback, the threatened loggerhead, green, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, roseate tern, Bermuda petrel, and piping plover. The endangered Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon frequent this habitat as well the Risso’s dolphins, Nassau grouper, dusky shark, and great hammerhead shark.

We are lucky enough to have 5 of the 7 species of sea turtles inhabit the waters off our coast and utilize our beaches for nesting. However all 5 species are threatened, endangered, or even critically endangered. So much like other endangered vertebrates, protecting their habitats is key to saving these unique creatures from extinction. North Carolina has a large population of sea turtles that nest on its beaches. Of the 25 NC beaches monitored for sea turtle nesting activity, the combined Outer Banks beaches consistently rank among the highest in activity. In 2012, Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, Northern Outer Banks and Pea Island beaches produced 46% of all nests, 38% of all nests in 2013, and currently, 52% of all reported sea turtle nests in North Carolina.

Influenced by the currents, large windrows of Sargassum, a free-floating brown algae, consistently aggregate just off Cape Hatteras creating another important and unique characteristic beneficial to marine life. Sargassum found off North Carolina’s coast is home to 81 fish species.

President Obama has done so much to protect our oceans; he has banned drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic, designated Marine Protected Areas, and banned seismic testing on the east coast. Before he leaves office, let's make sure Hope Spot Hatteras is included in the areas he has permanently protected! We cannot let this essential part of our oceans remain vulnerable. Sign the petition today!

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