The California State Assembly voted unanimously to pass a bill (AB 1776 - Fong) that will designate the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle as California’s official state marine reptile and declare October 15 every year as Leatherback Conservation Day. AB 1776 is intended to recognize the importance of California state waters to the survival and recovery of this ancient sea turtle species. The bill now goes to the Senate for voting.
"Designating the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as our state marine reptile will help be part of a coordinated worldwide conservation effort to save a species whose population has declined more than 95 percent," said Assemblymember Fong, who introduced the bill. "Naming the leatherback sea turtle as our official state marine reptile will demonstrate California's commitment to protecting leatherback sea turtles, our oceans ecosystem, and recognize the education and awareness this official designation bestows for this revered creature whose migratory pattern includes California's coast."
“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), primary bill sponsor, 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.”
AB 1776 will help Californians learn about and appreciate the leatherback and recognize the ecological importance of this ancient species by adding it to state law as an official symbol of California’s conservation ethic and biodiversity. So far over 30 organizations and thousands of California residents have supported the bill. Read more about the bill here. View the list of supporting organizations here.
“The Assembly’s swift bi-partisan support for this legislation shows the timeliness and importance of recognizing this ocean ambassador species,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana California Program Director. We hope to see the Senate and Governor take similar action to make this recognition official.”
In recognition of new scientific information validating the importance of California waters to the survival of Pacific leatherbacks, the National Marine Fisheries Service recently designated critical habitat off the U.S. west coast, including 16,910 square miles off California’s coast. Both SeaTurtles.org and Oceana participated in the 5 year process leading to the final designation.
The Pacific Ocean population of leatherbacks is in critical danger, having declined by 95% in the last 25 years, with as few as 2,100 adult female leatherback sea turtles remaining in the Pacific. Every summer and fall, leatherbacks migrate from their nesting grounds in Indonesia to ocean waters off the U.S. West Coast to feed on jellyfish — a 12,000-mile round-trip journey that is the longest known migration of any living reptile. During that journey, leatherbacks face a gauntlet of threats across the Pacific, including capture in commercial fishing gear, ingestion of plastics, poaching, global warming and ocean acidification.
Turtle Island Restoration Network’s (SeaTurtles.org) mission is to protect and restore endangered sea turtles and marine biodiversity worldwide in ways that incorporate the ecological needs of marine species and the economic needs of local communities, both of which share our common marine environment. We accomplish our mission through grassroots and policy-maker education, consumer empowerment, strategic litigation and by promoting sustainable local, national and international marine policies. See www.seaturtles.org
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.