The Oceans’ Last Chance – Can Next Month’s UN Conference Protect The High Seas

Source: The Guardian/Robin McKie

Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

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The leatherback turtle is one of our planet’s most distinctive creatures. It can live for decades and grow to weigh up to two tonnes. It is the largest living reptile on Earth and its evolutionary roots reach back more than 100 million years.

“Leatherbacks are living fossils,” says oceanographer Professor Callum Roberts, of York University. “But they are not flourishing. In fact, they are being wiped out at an extraordinary rate, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, where their numbers have declined by 97% over the past three decades. They are now critically endangered there.”

Leatherbacks are suffering for several reasons. They have been hunted for their meat for centuries and the spread of tourist resorts disrupts turtles when they come ashore to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. But the cause of the most recent, most massive decline in numbers of Dermochelys coriaceahas a far more pernicious cause: long-line fishing in the high seas.

Some trawlers now drag fishing lines that are more than 75 miles long, each bristling with hooks. Tens of thousands of sea turtles get snagged on these and drown every year. “It is tragic,” says Roberts.

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Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

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