Pacific leatherback turtle added to California state endangered species law – YubaNet

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SACRAMENTO, California. October 15, 2021 – Yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to designate the western Pacific leatherback turtle population as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The Pacific leatherback turtles are the most endangered sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, with their populations declining 95% over the past three decades. Scientists estimate that the population that feeds off the California coast is declining at a rate of 5.6% per year. Leatherback turtles were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act when it was created in 1973 and critical habitat for the Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle was identified off the coast of California in 2012.

The California designation added today will result in increased efforts by the state to study, protect and recover these endangered sea turtles and their habitat. The state designation will also serve as a safety net in the event that federal protections for leatherback turtles are weakened.

In response to today’s decision, Ashley Blacow-Draeger, Pacific Policy and Communications Manager at Oceana, issued the following statement:

“The Pacific leatherback turtles have survived 100 million years with virtually no change, but could disappear from the oceans within the next 30 years, unless more is done to protect them. California has a responsibility to ensure that these sea turtles can swim and feed safely off our coasts for many years to come. Being one of the most endangered ocean species, every turtle counts. We thank the California Fish and Game Commission for voting to turn the tide on the future of these ancient marine reptiles. The timing for this list of endangered species is apropos as California celebrates its state’s official marine reptile tomorrow for the ninth annual Pacific Leatherback Turtle Conservation Day. We urge the state to prioritize monitoring, research and conservation efforts to recover this special population of sea turtles. “

Pacific leatherback turtles hatch on beaches in Papua, Indonesia. Mature leatherback turtles travel 6,000 miles to the California coast – one of the longest migrations of all animals – to feed on jellyfish. Along the way and after their arrival, these sea turtles face an underwater gauntlet of threats, including entanglement in fishing gear. Once entangled, sea turtles can drag heavy fishing gear for months, hampering their ability to dive and feed, or animals can anchor to the gear and drown.

CESA listing follows recent regulations put in place by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to reduce the risk of entanglement of Pacific leatherback turtles, blue whales and humpback whales in commercial Dungeness crab gear . The regulations require the closure or reduction of the number of traps in certain Dungeness crab fishing areas when higher concentrations of whales or sea turtles are present and allow approved alternative fishing gears that reduce the risk of entanglement, such as “pop-up” gear, to be used in areas closed to conventional gear.

To learn more about Pacific leatherback turtles:

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiversity-rich oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With over 225 victories ending overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and the slaughter of endangered species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are paying off. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit United States.Oceana.org to learn more.


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