It would join the desert tortoise and the gray whale along with other fish, plants and animals as symbols of the state’s biodiversity and conservation ethic. The bill would designate Oct. 15 every year as Western Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day and encourage the state’s public schools to teach about the turtles. Download AB1776 here.
“Few Californians realize that the rare and ancient leatherback even exists, let alone that it has relied on our coast for millions of years,” said Teri Shore, Program Director at SeaTurtles.org (Turtle Island Restoration Network), the international ocean conservation organization that sponsored the bill, based in West Marin, California. “Making the leatherback the official marine reptile will help engage people at sea and on shore in conserving this incredible sea turtle for all time. We don’t want it to disappear from the state like the grizzly bear.”
The bill was introduced to recognize the importance of state coastal waters to the survival and recovery of the ancient sea turtle species. As of February 26, 2012 more than 41,000 square miles of ocean off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington will become federally protected critical habitat for leatherback turtles, which can weigh in at 2,000 pounds and measure 8 feet long. Read more here.
“The marine reptile designation is part of a coordinated worldwide conservation effort to save the sea turtles from extinction,” said Assemblyman Fong, who authored and passed last year’s shark fin ban. “The designation will demonstrate California’s commitment to protecting leatherback sea turtles and our ocean’s ecosystem.”
The Pacific leatherback feeds on jellyfish along the California coast after swimming 6,000 miles across the ocean from nests in Indonesia. The population has declined by 90 percent in recent decades and remains on the brink of extinction due to capture in industrial fisheries, pollution, poaching of eggs and climate change.
“Whenever people learn about our local leatherbacks or are lucky enough to spot one off the coast, they are amazed and intrigued and want to know what they can do to help,” said Todd Steiner, Executive Director of SeaTurtles.org. “Our job is to engage them in conservation and spreading the word.”
“The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and most amazing of all sea turtles and it depends on healthy oceans,” added marine biologist Dr. Chris Pincetich with SeaTurtles.org. “These sea turtles deserve more recognition, protection, and the increased awareness that will result by naming them the official marine reptile of our magnificent state.”
SeaTurtles.org (Turtle Island Restoration Network) is an international marine conservation organization headquartered in California whose 35,000 members and supporters work to protect sea turtles and marine biodiversity in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.SeaTurtles.org.
Read the Los Angeles Time story here.