Hell-bent for Leatherbacks
Leatherback turtles in the Pacific Ocean are in a serious decline that may lead to their extinction within a decade unless commercial fishing practices are changed, according to a new study in today’s issue of the journal Nature. The giant turtles, which weigh an average of 1,000 pounds and travel thousands of miles through the open ocean each year, are being entangled and killed in fishing gear. In the 1998-1999 season, only 117 females returned to lay eggs at Playa Grande in Costa Rica, a major turtle-nesting site, down from 1,367 in the 1988-1989 season. Scientists from Drexel University in Philadelphia estimate that fewer than 50 females will return to nest at the beach by 2010, a population too small to sustain itself.