Enormous Pacific leatherback sea turtles are so ancient they lived with the dinosaurs. Now a new study from SJSU/MLML and NOAA Fisheries researchers shows that leatherbacks that forage off the U.S. West Coast are trending towards extinction in as little as a few decades. The study was led by NOAA Fisheries scientist and MLML research affiliate Scott Benson and co-authored by MLML researchers Dr. Karin Forney and Dr. Jim Harvey.
Biologists estimated an annual average of about 128 leatherback turtles foraging off Central California from 1990 to 2003. That number dropped to an average of about 55 per year from 2004 to 2017. “In short order these animals are going to be gone if things don’t turn around,” said SJSU/MLML director and study co-author Jim Harvey. “You can’t just protect them in one location. You have to protect them across half the globe.”