|Leatherback sea turtle at dawn on nesting beach in Indonesia. Photo by Deasy Lontoh.|
Western Pacific leatherback sea turtles that feed on jellyfish along the U.S. West Coast are part of a population that continues to slide toward extinction. New science published today chronicles a massive 78 percent decline in the number of leatherback nests between 1984 and 2011 at a key nesting beach in Indonesia.
Researchers from the University of Alabama working with Indonesian researchers predicted that the leatherbacks could go extinct in 20 years if new conservation measures are not immediately implemented. About 75 percent of Western Pacific leatherbacks nest on the Bird's Head Peninsula in Papua, Indonesia. Anywhere from 100 to 300 swim the California coast every year, about 16 percent of the population, according to recent estimates.
The sea turtles need full protection of nesting beaches as well as protection from longline, drift gillnet and other commercial fisheries that snag and kill them in the Pacific Ocean.
The new science provides additional evidence for not allowing swordfish gillnetters along the California coast to fish in the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area, which would increase captures of these disappearing turtles. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will vote on whether to allow drift gillnetters to capture leatherbacks as bycatch when fishing for swordfish along the California coast at its March 10 meeting in Tacoma, Washington.
Download the university's press release here.
Download the university's study here.
Take Action to oppose the expansion of the California drift gillnet fishery into the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area here.