Leatherbacks face different threats at each stage of their lives, specific to the habitats they occupy during those stages. To save the leatherback, we must reduce threats in all of the habitats turtles occupy at the various stages of their life cycle.

For example, a nest that eludes poachers may produce a hatchling lucky enough to avoid ingesting plastics as she searches for food in ocean eddies. The turtle will need to avoid entanglement in fishing gear as she migrates over long distances in search of jellyfish. If she survives the 15-25 years it will take her to reach sexual maturity and successfully finds a mate in the open ocean, she will return to her natal beach to nest. Lights along the coast or debris on the beach could deter her from nesting. The nest she lays may be washed away as sea levels rise or dug up by unleashed dogs. The eggs may be poached by collectors, eaten by raccoons, or cooked alive as beach temperatures rise. Hatchlings disoriented by lights onshore may not reach the water and face a higher risk of dehydration and predation during this critical period.

In this section:

  • Development

    Construction of beachfront houses, restaurants and hotels on the tropical and sub-tropical sandy beaches presents one of the most serious threats to sea turtles around the world.

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  • Fishing

    Thousands of turtles drown each year after becoming entangled in fishing lines or ensnared by fishing nets set to supply growing global demand for seafood.

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  • Nest disturbance

    Although laws prohibit collection of sea turtle eggs in many countries, poaching continues where enforcement is weak. Uninformed beachgoers and their pets can also imperil nests.

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  • Pollution

    Pollution takes many forms and threatens sea turtles in insidious ways. Leatherbacks often confuse plastic shopping bags for jellyfish, a deadly mistake.

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  • Climate change

    Rising temperatures at nesting beaches and in foraging habitats, shifting ocean currents, sea level rise and increasing ocean acidification present very real threats to sea turtles.

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