Global populations of leatherback sea turtles have decreased by 40% in the past three generations. The Eastern Pacific sub-population has been particularly hard hit, with a 97% decline in three generations and an exponential decline in nesting populations in Mexico and Costa Rica. The main cause of the leatherback’s decline is unsustainable human activities, especially commercial fishing. Leatherbacks are 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.
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—the lowest hatchling survival rate of all seven sea turtle species. 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. 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.
Implementing the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area
Prohibits drift gillnet fishing between August 15 and November 15 along California and Oregon, reducing the number of leatherback deaths in the fishery from 112 between 1990 and 2001 to almost zero between 2001 and 2012.View Map
Authoring and passing the California Marine Reptile Bill
Designates Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day on October 15 every year, lists Pacific leatherback sea turtles as California's state marine reptile, and requires the species be included in the state curriculum.Read Bill
Challenging exempt longline fishing permits
In response to a lawsuit we filed, blocks the Trump administration for authorizing a new longline fishery in the Pacific Ocean. The authorization would have operated off California despite a federal ban on longline gear created in 2004 to protect leatherbacks.Learn More
Join the Campaign
Help us prevent Pacific leatherbacks from going extinct in our lifetime.