In response to Governor Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 1776, which designates the endangered leatherback sea turtle as California's official state reptile and designates October 15 as Leatherback Conservation Day, state and federal agencies have been encouraged to build cooperative relationships with the Western Pacific island nations, where Pacific leatherback sea turtles return from California waters to nest. This fall, from October 14-17th, political leaders from Indonesia and the United States will meet with notable marine and leatherback scientific experts to discuss the status of the species, the population, international conservation efforts, current conservation efforts in both countries, and socio-economic research of conservation.
It's been a leatherback-heavy news week and for all the right reasons. First a dramatic leatherback sea turtle rescue off of Cape Cod grabbed headlines over the weekend and then yesterday California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill designating the Pacific leatherback as the state's marine reptile.
The law designates October 15, 2013 as the first annual Leatherback Conservation Day, during which California schools will be encouraged to teach students about this prehistoric sea turtle species, which makes a heroic 6,000 mile journey from Indonesia to the California coast to feed on jellyfish. The species, which is the largest turtle on Earth, has been decimated in recent decades, its population numbers plummeting as much as 95% due to bycatch by industrial fishing drift nets and longlines, poaching and plastic pollution (leatherbacks often mistake plastic bags for their favorite prey, jellyfish).
“By recognizing the Pacific leatherback as the newest state symbol, Governor Brown continues California’s leadership in ocean conservation,” said Ashley Blacow, Oceana’s Pacific Policy and Communications Coordinator. “Pacific leatherbacks are on the brink of extinction, and public awareness is a key ingredient to turning the tide for these ancient marine reptiles.”
Help Oceana make everyday Leatherback Conservation Day!
At last, the good news you've been waiting for: California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning the trade of shark fins.
California has joined the ranks of Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii, who have all passed similar bans. Oceana supported this legislation from the beginning, and we are thrilled that Governor Brown has passed it into law, completing a West Coast ban.
Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, mostly to make shark fin soup. In this wasteful and cruel practice, a shark’s fins are sliced off while at sea and the remainder of the animal is thrown back into the water to die. Without fins, sharks bleed to death, drown, or are eaten by other species. In recent decades some shark populations have declined by as much as 99%.
Removing sharks from ocean ecosystems can destabilize the ocean food web and even lead to declines in populations of other species, including commercially-caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food web. While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade, so shark fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place.
“Today is a landmark day for shark conservation around the globe” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Pacific Director. “The leadership shown by legislatures and governors of California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii sends a strong message that the entire US West Coast will no longer play a role in the global practice of shark finning that is pushing many shark species to the brink of extinction.”
A huge thanks to everyone who called your legislators and Governor Brown and helped secure this enormous victory for our oceans' top predators!
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
Calling all Californians: Right now your Governor, Jerry Brown, is considering legislation that would effectively end the trade of shark fins. As you’re probably aware, trade in shark fins facilitates the practice of shark finning, which is one of the single biggest contributors to the collapse of shark populations around the globe.
The California State Senate passed a bill to end the trade in California, A.B. 376, earlier this month and we expect the governor to sign or veto the bill this week, so your rapid input is critical.