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Recovery Strategy for the Leatherback Turtle

4.0 Recovery

4.1 Recovery Feasibility [1]

 This recovery strategy takes a precautionary approach and suggests that recovery for the Atlantic leatherback turtle is feasible in the absence of information that would prove otherwise.

Many biological parameters, necessary to model recovery feasibility, are not understood for the leatherback.  The species’ capacity to rebound depends on fecundity, life span, age at maturity and survivorship, none of which are currently known.  Therefore, it is difficult to predict the potential for recovery of the species.  More specifically, it is not presently possible to state quantitatively whether implementing recovery efforts under this strategy will lead to the de-listing of leatherback turtles.

Furthermore, the full range of threats to the species in Atlantic Canadian waters is not completely understood, and much needs to be determined to understand how effective mitigation measures would be coordinated.  International efforts will be critical to protect the species throughout their global migratory, foraging, breeding, nesting and developmental habitats.

Nonetheless, most of the observed decline has been in the Pacific population.  A recent evaluation of trends at Pacific nesting beaches suggests a much greater rate of decline in the Pacific population of leatherbacks than in the Atlantic (Spotila et al., 2000).  Therefore, current recovery efforts by nations interacting with Atlantic leatherbacks, and now Canadian efforts, generate guarded optimism for the species in the Atlantic.  Implementation of the recommendations contained herein will provide population biologists with the information required to more clearly understand recovery feasibility of leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canada.

Information on the status of the entire population in the Atlantic is not available.  While the number nesting appears to be stable or increasing in the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida, the overall trend for the major nesting rookery in the French Guiana/Suriname region has been negative since 1987 (NMFS SEFSC, 2001), and is therefore suggestive that leatherbacks in the western Atlantic continue to experience mortality rates that exceed sustainable levels.  Therefore Canadian efforts, in conjunction with the efforts of all nations having an impact on leatherbacks, are required for the recovery of Atlantic leatherbacks.  Implementation of the recommendations contained in the Recovery Strategy will provide biologists and managers with the information required to better understand recovery feasibility of the Atlantic population of the leatherback turtle.

[1] Under SARA, the competent minister must determine whether “the recovery of the listed species is technically and biologically feasible.” The determination must be based on the best available information, including information provided by COSEWIC. [SARA S.40]