About Leatherbacks

Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Leatherback Sea Turtle

  • Weight: up to 2,000 pounds (900 kg) for adults; hatchlings are 40-50 grams (1.5-2 ounces)
  • Length: 6.5 feet (2 m) for adults;hatchlings are 2-3 inches (50-75 cm)
  • Appearance: primarily black shell with pinkish-white coloring on their belly
  • Lifespan: unknown
  • Diet: soft-bodied animals, such as jellyfish and salps
  • Behavior: females lay clutches of approximately 100 eggs several times during a nesting season, typically at 8-12 day intervals (NOAA 2013)

Migratory pathways

There are 4 distributions of leatherbacks found in every ocean and 2 groups of Pacific leatherbacks. The eastern leatherback nests in Central America and forages off the coast of South America and the western leatherback, which nests in and around Indonesia and forage throughout the Pacific Ocean and off the Western coast of the United States. In 2012, nearly 42,000 square miles of ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast were designated as leatherback critical habitat under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, including 16,910 square miles of California’s coastal waters. Any new activities occurring in these waters must prevent harm to the leatherback’s feeding areas and prey species.

The major threats to the leatherbacks are:

  • harvest of eggs
  • incidental capture in fishing gear, such as
    • gillnets
    • longlines
    • trawls
    • traps/ pots
    • dredges
  • Climate change