More specifically, a summer with the pacific leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). This week I started my summer fellowship position with Oceana, one of the leading NGOs focused on marine issues, including that of the plight of the leatherbacks, the world’s largest turtle species and possibly the largest reptile. Growing to about 9-feet long and weighing close to 2,000 pounds, about the size of a mini-cooper, the leatherbacks are “living dinosaurs” that are at risk of a similar fate of extinction. Drastic population declines, of nearly 90% in the last 25 years, are mostly the result of human activities such as capture in fisheries, egg poaching, habitat loss, marine plastic pollution, and anthropocentric climate change. Fortunately, the leatherback sea turtle was listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1970.
“Oceana’s campaign to save sea turtles is dedicated to the protection and restoration of sea turtle populations in the world’s oceans.” And their objectives include:
- Introduce comprehensive legislation in the U.S. Congress to conserve, protect and restore sea turtle populations.
- Require turtle excluder devices (TED) in all trawl fisheries in the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that operate in times and areas with sea turtles.
- Reduce bycatch of sea turtles in longline fisheries.
- Increase the number of fisheries observers on-board fishing boats to count the number of sea turtles caught.
- Obtain better information on how fisheries impact sea turtle populations.
- Establish critical habitat to aid in the recovery of sea turtle species.
The objectives I have for the summer differ from Oceana’s due to the project that I am currently working on. From Indonesia to California, we all need to do our part to help protect the leatherback sea turtles. Stay tuned to find out more about my project, Oceana, leatherback sea turtles, and this summer fellowship opportunity.