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Leatherback turtle migration study identifies Pacific danger zones for endangered species
Date:3/1/2012

SOLOMONS, MD (March 1, 2012)The majestic leatherback turtle is the largest sea turtle in the world, growing to more than 6 feet in length. It is also one of the most threatened. A major new study of migration patterns has identified high-use areaspotential danger zonesin the Pacific Ocean for this critically endangered species. This new understanding could help inform decisions about fishing practices to help reduce further deaths of this fragile species.

"The study shows that leatherbacks can be found throughout the Pacific Ocean and identifies high-use areas that are of particular importance to their survival," said lead author Dr. Helen Bailey of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "This information on their movements is essential for identifying hot spots and assessing where limiting fishing at particular times of year may be effective for protecting leatherbacks."

Leatherbacks are the widest-ranging marine turtle species and are known to migrate across entire ocean basins. Female leatherbacks lay their eggs on tropical nesting beaches, but then migrate to foraging areas to feed on jellyfish. These long-distance migrations are likely to increase the risk that these animals may be caught in fishing gear, undermining conservation efforts to protect turtles on their nesting beaches. Interaction with fisheries is believed to be a major cause of death, which is of particular concern in the eastern Pacific Ocean, where the number of leatherback turtles has dropped by more than 90% since 1980.

"Leatherback turtles are long-lived animals that take a long time to reach maturity, so when they are killed in fishing gear it has a huge impact on the population," said study coordinator Dr. James Spotila of Drexel University. "Their numbers are declining so rapidly it is critical that measures are taken quickly to ensure these animals don't go extinct."

Leatherback turtles can travel enormous distances bet
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Contact: Amy Pelsinsky
apelsinsky@umces.edu
410-330-1389
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2

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Leatherback turtle migration study identifies Pacific danger zones for endangered species
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