SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California has added the Pacific leatherback turtle to its list of endangered species, ensuring more protections for a rapidly declining population.
The California Fish and Game Commission voted Thursday to add turtles under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
The world’s largest turtle species have been on the federal endangered species list since 1973. But scientists now know more about California’s importance to their survival, according to Catherine Kilduff, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.
A subpopulation of leatherback turtles hatch on Indonesian beaches. Once adults, they swim nearly 9,656 kilometers to eat jellyfish off the coast of California. Adult leatherback turtles weigh an average of 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms).
Scientists say these sea turtles have declined by about 5.6% in California each year for the past three decades. About 50 sea turtles visit the California coast each year, up from about 178 turtles in the 1990s, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
Adding turtles to California’s endangered species list will make them a conservation priority for state agencies. It will also increase the state’s cooperation with federal agencies to protect the sea turtle population.
“Leatherbacks that prey on jellyfish off the California coast will now receive greater protection in our state from entanglement in fishing gear, which will give them a better chance of survival,” said Todd Steiner, director Executive of the Turtle Island Restoration Network. âWe hope this action will put these old and gentle giants on the road to recovery. “