For decades, the population of the great Pacific leatherback turtle off the California coast has declined by 5.6 percent per year.
To address this devastating loss, California’s Fish and Game Commission recently voted to list the turtle as endangered under the state’s own Endangered Species Act, according to the press release by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
“California’s action will make an outsized difference for leatherback sea turtles, even in the face of global threats like the loss of nesting beaches,” said CBD attorney Catherine Kilduff.
One of the major threats to Pacific leatherback turtles, the largest turtle species on the planet, is fishing gear. Becoming entangled in fishing gear slows the turtles down as they travel for months from Indonesian beaches to California’s coast to eat jellyfish—or worse, the gear can cause the turtles to drown.
Between the years 1990 and 2003, around 178 turtles would come hunt jellyfish along California’s coastline. Now, that number has been reduced to 50. Around the world, their population has also been in decline, and the species is considered “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List.
Now that the turtles have been granted greater protections, they will become a state conservation priority.
“Protecting the state’s ocean to save leatherbacks benefits not only sea turtles but whales and people too. The California Endangered Species Act will ensure that leatherbacks’ decline gets the attention it deserves during this global biodiversity crisis.”