Pacific leatherback sea turtle to be considered as endangered in California

SACRAMENTO—The Pacific leatherback sea turtle already receives protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The sea turtle species could soon be protected under California’s ESA, as well.

The California Fish and Game Commission meets in Sacramento on Feb. 21 and will be considering a Consent Calendar item on a petition to consider the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as endangered under the state’s ESA. A decision might not be made on Feb. 21, however, the Consent Calendar item includes the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s request for a 30-day extension to review the petition.

Leatherback sea turtles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are the “largest turtle in the world.”

“They are the only species of sea turtle that lack scales and a hard shell and are named for their tough rubbery skin,” NOAA staff stated in an informational piece about leatherback sea turtles. “They have existed in their current form since the age of the dinosaurs. Leatherbacks are highly migratory, some swimming [more than] 10,000 miles a year between nesting and foraging grounds.”

The leatherback sea turtle is also an avid diver; NOAA says one leatherback sea turtle is on record as diving 4,000 feet deep.

“All leatherback turtle populations are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act,” according to NOAA staff. “They face threats on both nesting beaches and in the marine environment. The greatest of these threats worldwide are incidental capture in fishing gear and harvest of leatherback eggs and adults.”

The Log and FishRap will follow up with the commission’s deliberation and address who brought the petition (and why).

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