Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Inaugural Observance Aims to Protect California’s New Official Marine Reptile
In an effort to bring awareness and protect the population for generations to come, California has designated Oct. 15 as Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day.
As one of largest migratory sea turtles, the Pacific leatherback sea turtle (leatherback) mark an incredible journey each year, traveling more than 6,000 miles from nesting beaches in Indonesia to feed on California jellyfish during summer and fall months. Listed as threatened on both federal and state lists, the species faces threats from capture in fishing gear, harvesting of eggs on nesting beaches, plastic pollution and climate change.
“Despite being listed as an endangered or threatened species since 1970, the leatherback population has decreased by approximately 90 percent over the last 20 years,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Our hope with this celebration is to bring awareness to the plight of the leatherback to preserve it for years to come.”
Passed by the Assembly and signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2012, Assembly Bill 1776 established leatherbacks as the official state marine reptile. The bill encourages public schools to include leatherbacks in their curriculum and urges state and federal agencies to take proactive conservation measures to prevent further threats.
Scientists and government representatives from California and Indonesia will also convene in Monterey, California Oct. 14-16, 2013 for an historic summit on leatherbacks. The conference will host more than a dozen Indonesian delegates, providing the opportunity to reaffirm each country’s commitments and forge new partnerships to prevent the extinction of this magnificent species that call both regions home.
About the Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle
Leatherbacks are the deepest-diving, longest-living and largest sea turtle. An adult can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and measure more than 6.5 feet in length and can easily be differentiated from other turtle species by its lack of a bony shell. According to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) scientists, there are less than 5,000 leatherback breeding females left in the world today.