October 18, 2008

‘Swimways’ Urged for Leatherbacks

U.S. and international scientists are calling for protected "swimways" to save leatherback sea turtles and hammerhead sharks from fishing nets.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress adopted a resolution this week calling for protected areas along the Pacific leatherback's migratory routes.

"Leatherback sea turtles survived the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, but they are unlikely to survive our unsustainable appetite for swordfish and tuna," said Todd Steiner, head of the U.S.-based Turtle Island Restoration Network and a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group. "If leatherbacks are to survive the coming decades, we must convert talk to action; otherwise we will lose one of the most ancient creatures on the planet, in the next 10 to 30 years."

Researchers said leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean have declined by more than 90 percent over the past three decades as a result of drowning in industrial longline and gillnet fisheries targeting swordfish, sharks and tunas.