Going the Distance

The leatherback sea turtle—the oldest and largest marine turtle on the planet—is an endangered species. There are several distinct leatherback populations throughout the world, and these animals make long migrations, often across ocean basins. Some Pacific leatherback populations have declined by over 90% since the 1980s. This unique species is often found in the coastal California waters of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but some individuals also pass through Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary as they endure a lengthy migration of about 7,000 miles to the Indonesian coast to mate and lay eggs. The United States engages in several international partnerships and agreements to enhance leatherback sea turtle conservation. Additionally NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Pacific leatherback under the “Species in the Spotlight” initiative, emphasizing five priority actions to aid in population recovery for 2021–2025. You can do your part to help leatherbacks and other sea turtles by reducing your use of single-use plastics and supporting sustainable seafood and aquaculture practices.

 a leatherback sea turtle
Photo: Douglas Croft