Sacramento, CA- Today California Senators in a key policy committee voted unanimously to support legislation (Assembly Bill 1776 – Fong) that will designate the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as California’s official state marine reptile and declare October 15 every year as Leatherback Conservation Day. All 13 Democrats and Republicans on the Government Organization Committee supported the leatherback bill, which will soon go to the full Senate Floor for passage.
As sponsors and supporters of the bill, SeaTurtles.org and Oceana have generated statewide support for AB 1776 from thousands of California residents and more than 30 conservation entities including, most recently, the California Fish and Game Commission. The bill is intended to recognize the importance of California state waters to the survival and recovery of this ancient sea turtle species. The California leatherbacks are profiled in a new book titled “Sea Turtles of the Eastern Pacific” written by California based sea turtle researchers Jeffrey Seminoff and Bryan Wallace.
“Designating the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as our state marine reptile will help be part of a coordinated worldwide conservation effort to save a species whose population has declined more than 95 percent,” said Assemblymember Fong, who introduced the bill. “Naming the leatherback sea turtle as our official state marine reptile will demonstrate California’s commitment to protecting leatherback sea turtles, our oceans ecosystem, and recognize the education and awareness this official designation bestows for this revered creature whose migratory pattern includes California’s coast.”
The Pacific leatherback swims 6,000 miles across the ocean to feed on jellyfish along the California coast. More than 16,000 square miles of California’s coastal waters were designated as critical habit for the leatherbacks earlier this year.
“The incredible level of support for recognizing this native California sea turtle gives me hope for their conservation,” said Teri Shore, Program Director at SeaTurtles.org (Turtle Island Restoration Network), the primary bill sponsor, based in West Marin, California. “Few Californians realize that the rare and ancient leatherback even exists, let alone that it has relied on our coast for millions of years.”
“The Senators’ swift bi-partisan support for this legislation shows the timeliness and importance of recognizing this ocean ambassador species,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana California Program Director. We hope to see the full Senate and Governor take similar action to make this recognition official.”
AB 1776 will help Californians learn about and appreciate the leatherback and recognize the ecological importance of this ancient species by adding it to state law as an official symbol of California’s conservation ethic and biodiversity.
Turtle Island Restoration Network’s (SeaTurtles.org) mission is to protect and restore endangered sea turtles and marine biodiversity worldwide in ways that incorporate the ecological needs of marine species and the economic needs of local communities, both of which share our common marine environment. We accomplish our mission through grassroots and policy-maker education, consumer empowerment, strategic litigation and by promoting sustainable local, national and international marine policies. See www.seaturtles.org
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.