Happy Conservation Day Leatherback Sea Turtles!
Last year, the California legislature made the Leatherback sea turtle the California marine reptile and designated October 15th as the day to celebrate these amazing creatures.
Leatherback turtles are named for their leather-like shell, which is softer than other turtles. They are the largest marine turtle species, growing up to seven feet (two meters) long and exceeding 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). Leatherbacks undertake the longest migrations between breeding and feeding areas of any sea turtle, averaging 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) each way. Although their distribution is wide, numbers of leatherback turtles have seriously declined during the last century as a result of intense egg collection and fisheries bycatch.
Marine turtles are the living representatives of a group of reptiles that has existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. They are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems. Leatherback turtles consume large numbers of jellyfish which helps to keep populations of these marine organisms in check. This is why they visit the Monterey Bay, for all of our delicious jellyfish. Marine turtles, including leatherbacks, also provide a vital source of income as a draw for ecotourism in coastal communities, especially in the Coral Triangle.
Scientists around the world are tracking and studying leatherbacks to learn more about these reptilian giants and how they can be saved. Take a moment to spread the word today about these amazing creatures we get to call the California marine reptile!