Leatherback Turtle Named California's State Marine Reptile
October 1, 2012
Last Wednesday, Sept. 26, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1776—making the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle the official state marine reptile.
The bill unanimously passed in both the Assembly and the Senate, and will be effective Jan. 1. The state's first Leatherback Conservation Day will be Oct. 15, 2013.
The nonprofit marine conservation group Oceana created a new state flag (above) to celebrate the designation. Oceana sponsored AB 1776 along with the The Sea Turtle Restoration Project.
"Leatherback sea turtles are best described by superlatives: They are an ancient lineage outsurviving the dinosaurs; they are the largest sea turtle on Earth; they can dive to a depth of over half a mile—as deep as the giant whales; they have one of the longest migrations of any animal (6,000 miles across the entire Pacific), and unfortunately, [they] are the most endangered sea turtle in the Pacific due to incidental capture in industrial fishing drift nets and longlines," states an Oceana press release.
Oceana officials hope the bill will encourage collaboration with other nations in the leatherback migration path. One group of leatherbacks crosses the Pacific annually to eat jellies off the Central California Coast in the late summer.
More than 16,000 square miles of California’s coastal waters were designated as critical habitat for leatherbacks earlier this year.