The biggest species of sea turtle is the Leatherback Sea Turtle, they can grow to 4 - 6 feet and live to around 45 years old in the wild. If you want to learn more in depth about Leatherback Sea Turtles click here.
Why are Leatherback Sea Turtles in Decline?
Over the last 30 years the leatherback sea turtle population has declined by 80% and in April of 2020 the conservation group Fauna & Flora International (FFI) stated that we have just 10 years left to put measures in place to save the leatherback sea turtles.
One of the leading causes of sea turtle deaths around the world is bycatch, and as the leatherback turtle is the largest it is also, unfortunately, very susceptible to getting tangled in fishing gear. As they need to resurface to breathe getting trapped in a net or entangled in lines can not only cause terrible injuries as they thrash to break free but can eventually drown the turtle if they aren't freed.
Very few hatchlings will make it to adulthood. This can be attributed to poachers taking eggs for food & sale on the black market as well as predators waiting for the hatchlings to emerge. There is also the dangers of artificial lights from coastal towns that can disorientate hatchlings causing them to head towards the town and traffic rather than their destination, the ocean.
There is also the plastic pollution problem. Leatherback sea turtles almost exclusively feast on jellyfish, however the tragedy is that plastic bags floating through the oceans look awfully similar to jellyfish, which has lead to a number of these turtles mistaking them for their prey. Studies have found that nearly half of all leatherback sea turtles examined had consumed plastic. Though it is unknown just how much plastic it would take to kill a leatherback turtle, we do know that consuming plastic is incredibly unhealthy as it cannot be digested, so remains in the turtles stomach.
| Photograph by Jacob Loyacano on Instagram (@jacob_naturalworld_photography).
How can we protect Leatherback Sea Turtles?
There are conservation efforts in place to stop the decline of leatherback sea turtles. First, working towards reducing and avoiding the 200 - 260 deaths as a result of bycatch each year. Part of this is ensuring that fisheries are using turtle excluders in their nets, as well as restricting the use of gilnets in leatherback turtle ranges.
Second improving the chance of hatchling survival by protecting nesting areas and improving incubation conditions. On average of there are 100 eggs laid in a leatherback sea turtle's clutch but very few hatchlings will make it into adulthood. By reducing the amount of human activities on the beaches during nesting seasons, protecting the nests from poachers and ensuring a safer environment for the hatchlings to emerge in.
Third, something we can all do is to reduce our plastic use, in particular single use plastics, bags and packaging. Every day tons of plastic enters the ocean, polluting the home of marine turtles and luring the unsuspecting turtle into consuming it, as often the plastic can still smell like food to the sea turtles.
| Photography by Alex Kydd on Instagram (@alexkyddphoto)
Free Gift Available for World Sea Turtle Day
We have a very special free gift for you this weekend in celebration of World Sea Turtle Day! They are gold plated with a simple leatherback sea turtle pendant, the perfect free gift for this weekend.
Free with all orders over $20 this weekend! (From 21st - 24th of May).
Please note that this offer does not work with discount codes, if you enter a discount code at the check out it may remove the free gift. If you have any problems please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1] The Great Courses Daily - Analyzing Sea Turtles as Population of Leatherbacks in Decline, Jonny Lupsha (April 5th 2021)
2] BBC - 10 years to save 'world’s most threatened sea turtle', Helen Briggs (4th April 2020)
3] World Wildlife Foundation - Leatherback Turtle
4] American Museum of Natural History - Endangered: Leatherback Sea Turtle, Hall of Biodiversity