Good news for the Leatherback Sea Turtle
The leatherback sea turtle is the world’s largest turtle and the November update of the IUCN Red List, contained good news regarding the status of the turtle, changing from critically Endangered to Vulnerable. The report provided detail that the population of leatherback turtles along the Atlantic coast taking in the US and the Caribbean is recovering due to conservation actions. However, the situation in the Pacific was noted to be concerning with the east Pacific population dropping by 97 percent in three leatherback generations, while the west Pacific population has fell by 80 percent during the same period.
The Leatherback sea turtles face a variety of major threats that are common to all sea turtles, and include fisheries’ bycatch, human consumption of their eggs and meat, coastal development, light pollution, plastic pollution, and climate change.
Leatherback’s do inhabit Northern Territory waters, but they are not as common as other species. The loggerhead and the olive ridley turtles remain listed as endangered, while the flatback and the hawksbill are vulnerable, the later species being identified as one of the 11 most threatened species of sea turtle in the West Pacific region in a report on the status of the world’s sea turtles.
Data collection about the status of sea turtle populations is tricky, as researchers are restricted to data collection on nesting beaches, and satellite tracking for limited time periods. The flatback turtle is Australia’s only endemic sea turtle and since 2009 Sea Darwin has supported Austurtle with the valuable data collection that occurs on the Bare Sand Island nesting site each year, where a volunteer project occurs during peak nesting time of June and July. These months are a perfect time to visit the Island on Turtle Tracks, as guests get to meet the researchers and volunteers as well as witness one of natures special events, a nesting sea turtle.
More recently, in 2013 Sea Darwin has partnered with the Territory Wildlife Park and the North Australia Marine Research AllianceGo in two separate sea turtle releases, with two flatback turtles (siblings Henderson and Sandy) and an Olive Ridley (Oliver) being released with satellite trackers for the purpose of providing data for the Impact of Ghost Nets on Sea Turtle Population project. These turtles can be tracked and/or sponsored on Seaturtle.org.