Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle faces extinction unless shifted to other habitable areas

January 2nd, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan 2 (ANI): The next few decades might bring with it the extinction of the endangered Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle, whose encounters with fishing gear meant to catch swordfish, has resulted in the death of a large number of its species.

According to a report in ENN, leatherbacks are ocean giants that grow to the size of a small automobile, dive more than half a mile deep, and migrate across the entire Pacific Ocean basin from their nesting grounds in New Guinea and Indonesia to feed in the rich waters off California and Oregon.

But, the species has declined by more than 90 percent in the Pacific Ocean over the past three decades, primarily as a result of drowning in industrial longline and gillnet fisheries aiming to catch swordfish, sharks, and tunas.

Marine debris and loss of nesting beaches due to global-warming-induced sea-level rise also threaten the leatherback.

In fact, if the current trends continue, Pacific leatherbacks are predicted to go extinct within the next few decades.

“Leatherback sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but they are unlikely to survive our unsustainable appetite for swordfish,” said Brendan Cummings, staff attorney and oceans program director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“If leatherbacks are to survive the coming decades, we must turn the waters off California and Oregon into a true sanctuary for these imperiled creatures. Designating critical habitat is a vital step towards that end,” he added.

Towards this purpose, the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is the federal agency in charge of ocean species management, has announced that it would examine in detail whether waters off the California and Oregon coasts should be protected as critical habitat for the leatherbacks.

The proposed protected area, which is roughly 200,000 square miles of an area of ocean spanning from Big Sur, California to central Oregon, is a food-rich upwelling region favored by many marine species, including the leatherback.

This area is currently closed to drift-gillnet fishing for swordfish during a three-month period during the summer and fall when leatherbacks gather there to feed on jellyfish. (ANI)

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