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Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) CMS STATUS

Appendix I & II CMS INSTRUMENT(S) MoU on on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia; MoU concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa

The leatherback turtle is a long-distance migratory sea turtle, travelling between tropical breeding grounds and multiple pelagic and coastal foraging regions located in temperate and tropical waters. There are effectively two breeding stocks in the Pacific: a western Pacific stock that nests in Indonesia (Papua Barat), Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu; and an eastern Pacific stock that nests in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. A third stock that nested on beaches in Terengganu, Malaysia appears to have been nearly extirpated within the past decade. The western Pacific stock harbours the last remaining significant nesting aggregations in the Pacific with an estimated 2,700–4,500 breeding females. Pacific leatherback turtles are endangered throughout their range.

Threats to critical sites and migratory pathways Predation by pigs and dogs, as well as continued human harvest of eggs and turtles, beach erosion, and low hatch success remain significant impacts to the western Pacific stock. The eastern Pacific stock, which used to host the worlds’ largest leatherback nesting population, has declined by more than 90 per cent over the past two decades due to unsustainable harvesting of turtle eggs and fishery bycatch. It is estimated that thousands of leatherbacks are hooked each year in fishery longlines and gillnets, which can result in severe injuries or death. Urban developments along the coast can also destroy and degrade beaches that are used for nesting. Leatherbacks can also confuse floating plastic bags and other debris with jellyfish, their main diet. The potential for Pacific-basin wide leatherback extirpation remains significant.

Opportunities for ecological networks Whilst conservation efforts are underway on nesting beaches, there are significant opportunities for enhanced regional and international cooperation in the management of leatherbacks in high-use areas and migratory corridors across the Pacific, including within existing marine protected areas. Greater information on fisheries bycatch is important for evaluating the relative effects of different fisheries. Bycatch mortality can be reduced through mandatory use of turtle-friendly fishing gear by foreign long line

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vessels fishing in national waters. Continued tagging and tracking studies of leatherbacks and other migratory marine species that share similar high-seas habitats and common threats can play an important role in informing the spatio-temporal management of fisheries and coastal activities, and can inform the design of time- area closures during certain periods of the year.

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