With only 633 Eastern Pacific leatherback sea turtles left, scientists predict this iconic sea turtle could be extinct by 2040. We can’t let this happen.

Why Leatherbacks?

Less than 50 years ago, leatherback sea turtles—Earth’s largest living reptiles—were thriving in the world’s oceans. Today, due to unsustainable human activities, the leatherback sea turtle is teetering on the edge of extinction. Global populations have decreased by 40 percent in the past three generations. The Eastern Pacific sub-population has been particularly hard hit, with a 97 percent decline in three generations accompanied with an exponential decline in nesting populations in Mexico and Costa Rica.

The leatherback’s decline has been caused by unsustainable human activities, many of which continue to this day. While it is illegal in the United States, many countries still allow the continued harvest of leatherback eggs and the capture and killing of leatherbacks for their meat. Coastal development has decreased the amount of beach that leatherbacks are able to nest on and increased the use of disorienting beachfront lighting. Currently, only one out of a thousand hatchlings survive. This is the lowest survival rate of all seven species of sea turtles.

Human threats to leatherbacks do not end once they reach the ocean. Watercraft strikes, climate change, and pollution will pose threats throughout a turtle’s lifetime. The leatherback’s foraging habitat is degraded by plastic bags and balloons which, floating in the ocean, closely resemble jellyfish, the leatherback’s favorite food.

Leatherbacks are also drowned and killed by commercial fisheries, such as longlines and driftnets. Entangled in fishing line or net, leatherbacks struggle to swim to the surface to breathe.

What We’re Doing

For years, Turtle Island Restoration Network has called for action to safeguard these gentle ocean giants. We launched the Save the Leatherback program to improve leatherback hatchling success while reducing mortality from fishing operations. 

  • Closed the California longline fishery to prevent leatherback mortality;
  • Organized the first Leatherback Survival Conference, bringing scientists and NGOs from around the pacific to develop a survival strategy;
  • Organized more than 1,000 scientists and nearly 300 NGOs to call for the United Nations moratorium on longline fishing to prevent the extinction of Pacific leatherback turtles, resulting in numerous Sea Turtle Action Plans throughout the region;
  • Authored successful State law to have the Pacific leatherback listed as California’s state marine reptile and be included in state curriculum;
  • Produced several award-winning leatherback documentaries including “Last Journey for the Giant Leatherback.”
  • Won a major victory for Pacific leatherbacks with the implementation of the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area, which prohibits drift gillnet fishing between August 15 and November 15 along the California and Oregon coasts from Point Sur to Lincoln City, out to the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area has reduced the number of leatherback deaths in the fishery from 112 between 1990 and 2001; to near zero between 2001 and 2012.

With your help, we can reverse the extinction crisis for leatherbacks, fighting extinction of these gentle giants through our dedicated efforts combining innovative research strategic advocacy, and policy work with unwavering grassroots activism.

What You Can Do

With your help, we can reverse the extinction crisis for leatherbacks.