Leatherback sea turtle no longer Critically Endangered

Jeremy Hance
November 26, 2013

The leatherback sea turtle—the world's largest turtle and the only member of the genus Dermochelys—received good news today. In an update of the IUCN Red List, the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) has been moved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable. However, conservationists warn that the species still remains hugely endangered—and in rapid decline—in many parts of its range.

The new assessment found that the population of leatherback turtles in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (along the US and the Caribbean) is on the road to recover due to conservation actions. While scientists aren't sure how the southeast Atlantic population (mostly in Gabon) is faring, it remains the world's largest population.

However, the situation in the Pacific is far more bleak. The east Pacific population has dropped by 97 percent in three leatherback generations, while the west Pacific population has fell by 80 percent during the same period.

"The persistence of significant threats in all regions warrants concern for the future viability of even the largest subpopulations. Current efforts to protect Leatherbacks, their offspring, and their habitats must be maintained—or even augmented, where possible—to reverse declines in Pacific and Indian Ocean subpopulations and to sustain population growth in the Northwest Atlantic," the assessors write.

Leatherback sea turtles face a variety of major threats, including fisheries' bycatch, human consumption of their eggs and meat, coastal development, light pollution, plastic pollution, and climate change.

Leatherback sea turtle. Photo by: Guy Marcovaldi.
Leatherback sea turtle. Photo by: Guy Marcovaldi.

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 26, 2013).

Leatherback sea turtle no longer Critically Endangered .