West Coast
Leatherback sea turtle/ Tinglar, USVI. via Flickr

CA - California Agency: Protection for Leatherback Sea Turtles May Be Needed

Prehistoric Reptiles Threatened by Fishing, Ship Strikes

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended today that Pacific leatherback sea turtles move toward protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The action came in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network.

The Pacific leatherback population has declined by 90% over the past 40 years, mostly because longline and gillnet fishing for tuna and swordfish entangles and drowns these giant, ancient, soft-shelled turtles. Scientists predict that, without help, Pacific leatherbacks could be extinct in 20 years.

“Pacific leatherback sea turtles are moving a step closer to protection off California’s coast,” said Catherine Kilduff, a Center attorney. “Leatherback sea turtles have traveled across the Pacific for millions of years. We urge the state to finalize these protections quickly so the California Endangered Species Act can help prevent their extinction.”

Protecting leatherbacks under the state’s Endangered Species Act would make them a state conservation priority. The state law would also provide a backstop to potentially weakened protections for leatherbacks under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Read more.