Pacific Leatherback Turtle
The Pacific leatherback turtle is one of NOAA Fisheries ‘ Species in the Spotlight. This inaugural is a concert, agency-wide effort launched in 2015 to spotlight and save the most highly at-risk nautical species .
Pacific leatherback turtle sea turtles are genetically and biologically alone. They migrate extreme distances across the Pacific Ocean from nesting to foraging/feeding areas, and are broadly larger in size than Atlantic leatherbacks. Pacific leatherback turtle populations have plummeted in late decades—Western Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percentage and Eastern Pacific leatherbacks have declined by more than 97 percentage. across-the-board turtle and egg reap and by-catch in fish gear are the chief causes of these declines .
Leatherbacks are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Pacific leatherback turtle continues to decline. The desperate status for Pacific leatherbacks make them a priority for recovery and conservation efforts within NOAA Fisheries and with our partners worldwide to stabilize and prevent extinction of this iconic species.
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Where Pacific Leatherback Turtles Live
Movement patterns for Western Pacific and Eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtle populations. Credit: Bailey et al. 2012, PLOS ONE, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036401 Pacific leatherbacks are split into two populations—Western Pacific and Eastern Pacific—based on range distribution and biological and genetic characteristics. western Pacific leatherbacks nest in the Indo-Pacific region and migrate to the tropical waters of the Indonesian sea, the South China Sea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and throughout the temperate waters of the North Pacific, including areas of overt ocean in the cardinal North Pacific and coastal areas off the west coast of the United States, arsenic well as to southeastern Australia and New Zealand. Eastern Pacific leatherbacks nest along the Pacific slide of Mexico and Costa Rica and migrate south to foraging grounds off South America .
Pacific leatherbacks are considered one of the most at-risk species because of the drastic decreasing course since the 1980s. westerly Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 80 percentage and Eastern Pacific leatherbacks have declined by more than 97 percentage. More late course analyses, on the primary nest beaches in both the East and West Pacific, continue to show declines .
Leatherback turtle nest with hatchings. Leatherbacks are oceanic ( open ocean ) animals, but they besides feed in and migrate through coastal waters. westerly Pacific leatherbacks engage in one of the greatest migrations of any air-breathing marine animal, swimming from tropical nesting beaches in the western Pacific ( primarily Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands ) to foraging grounds in the eastern North Pacific off the U.S. coast. The closely 7,000-mile trans-Pacific travel through the single economic zones of multiple Pacific nations and external waters requires 10 to 12 months to complete. In 2012, critical habitat was designated off of the U.S. West Coast ( California, Oregon, and Washington ), because these areas are key foraging sites for the Western Pacific leatherback turtle .
pornographic females require flaxen nest beaches in warm, tropical climates for egg put. Eastern Pacific leatherbacks nest along the Pacific coast of the Americas, chiefly in Mexico and Costa Rica. Western Pacific leatherbacks demonstrate a bimodal design of seasonal nest during the winter and summer months in the west Pacific, chiefly in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands .
Leatherback turtles nest several times during a nesting season, typically at 8- to 12-day intervals and lay 85–95 tennis ball size eggs. Like early ocean turtleneck species, leatherbacks face significant threats from by-catch in fisheries ( for example, web and/or hooking ), illegal solicitation of eggs and killing of adult turtles, coastal development, pollution, nautical debris, and climate change .
Leatherbacks are particularly vulnerable to bycatch in fishing gear. Gear modification and best practices have been implemented in many fisheries that have reduced incidental expense by-catch of leatherbacks, but globally, impacts from artisanal and industrial fish operations have not been resolved. nowadays, by-catch remains the most significant terror to Pacific leatherbacks throughout their migratory corridors and foraging/feeding areas .
U.S. Conservation and Management
The United States has taken significant steps to protect leatherbacks in our waters. In the Pacific, a leatherback turtle conservation area was established off the coast of California in 2001 that prohibits drift gillnet fish from August 15 to November 15 in 213,000 square miles of the Exclusive Economic Zone. In 2009, the Marianas Trench, Rose Atoll, and Pacific Remote Islands marine home monuments were established, prohibiting commercial and recreational fisheries, frankincense providing crucial protected areas for ocean turtles in this region. And like to Atlantic fisheries, Hawaii-based longline fisheries have been regulated to reduce leatherback turtle interactions .
additionally, vessel owners and captains participating in the Hawaii-based longline fishery and the California drift gillnet fishery must attend Protected Species Workshops per annum where they receive new and update information on sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean and fresh, relevant fisheries regulations, ampere well as train on dependable handle and passing procedures including the resuscitation of sea turtles. Longline fishermen are besides required to carry and use dunk nets, occupation cutters, and de-hookers to release any incidentally-caught ocean turtles.
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While meaning conservation activities continue in the United States, the highly migratory nature of Pacific leatherbacks necessitates regular cooperation with external partners to address the main threats .
Screening a nest to protect from predators in Papua New Guinea. International collaboration includes participation in respective multilateral and regional treaties that have resulted in measures to conserve leatherback turtle populations. Some of the accomplishments under these agreements include the growth of the Inter-American conventionality for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles East Pacific Leatherback Task Force, which has identified measures to reduce deathrate of Eastern Pacific leatherbacks in nautical habitats and protect nesting sites and nesting females to increase generative productiveness .
The United States besides maintains a leadership character within respective Regional Fishery Management Organizations, proposing and/or supporting resolutions to protect sea turtles including binding measures to reduce fisheries interactions .
In addition to regional and multilateral agreements, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service digest bilateral projects ( through grants and in-kind support ) to recover Pacific leatherbacks throughout their range. For example, in Papua Barat, Indonesia—a significant cuddle sphere for Western Pacific leatherbacks—NOAA Fisheries and U.S. FWS have collaborated with local anesthetic institutions, like The State University of Papua ( UNIPA ), for more than a decade to reduce poaching on nesting beaches, establish even nest surveys, improve community engagement in the security of the nest beaches, and ensure that auspices continues into the future. UNIPA ’ south cultivate has been instrumental in building local support for conserving and recovering Pacific leatherbacks. As a leave, NOAA Fisheries named Dr. Fitry Pakiding from UNIPA, a Species in the Spotlight hero. NOAA Fisheries and U.S. FWS besides work bilaterally with several countries to reduce leatherback turtle by-catch in coastal waters, particularly in the Pacific .
Species in the Spotlight Priority Actions
As part of our Species in the Spotlight enterprise, NOAA Fisheries developed a 2021–2025 Priority Action Plan for the Pacific leatherback turtle, which builds on the 2016–2020 Priority Action Plan and details the cardinal conservation efforts that are needed to recover this critically endangered species. Without concenter efforts in the Pacific, leatherbacks may not recover and may become eliminated from the integral ocean river basin .
Leatherback turtle hatchling crawling to the ocean in West Papua, Indonesia. together with U.S. FWS, we identified the pursuit priority actions for 2021–2025 .
- Reduce fisheries bycatch and in-water harvest
- Improve protection on nesting beaches
- Support in-water research and monitoring to inform conservation actions
- Foster cooperation with international partners
- Encourage public engagement
In our inaugural five years of the Species in the Spotlight first step, we have :
- Helped in efforts to reduce leatherback bycatch in coastal fisheries of five countries (Mexico, Peru, Chile, Philippines, and Indonesia)
- Protected key nesting beaches and foraging areas in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and California
- Reduced bycatch in U.S. pelagic longline fisheries
- Strengthened cooperation with Indonesia and Mexico
- Celebrated California’s annual Pacific Leatherback Day and offered outreach and educations program
2017 Species in the Spotlight Hero Award
A village in Wau-Weyaf West Papua, Indonesia, after attending a leatherback turtle outreach program. Credit: Kartika Zohar. The State University of Papua ( UNIPA ) has been actively engaged in recovering the largest remaining leatherback turtle nesting population in the Western Pacific for more than 10 years. UNIPA has worked at “ grind zero ” for leatherback turtle conservation in the Western Pacific. They established a science-based management design that minimizes sea turtleneck nest failure and enhances hatchling production .
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2019 Partner in the Spotlight Award
Over the last ten, the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Network, or Red Laúd del Océano Pacífico Oriental ( “ Laúd OPO ” ) in spanish, has brought together scientists and conservation practitioners across the Eastern Pacific to compile and synthesize key cuddle and fisheries bycatch data to help protect and recover Pacific leatherback turtle sea turtles. The Laúd OPO network initiated a regional by-catch judgment. Based on this information, Laúd OPO has identified the most critical conservation actions to be taken by local and national governments .
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