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Recovery Strategy for the Leatherback Turtle

4.2 Recovery Goal [1]

The goal for the recovery strategy is to ‘increase the population such that the long-term viability of the leatherback turtles frequenting Atlantic Canadian waters is achieved’.

 4.3 Recovery Objectives [2]

Creating and maintaining the necessary conditions both within Canadian territory and abroad in efforts to achieve a viable population of Atlantic leatherback turtles will be accomplished by implementing the following recovery objectives:

Objective 1: Understanding Threats.  Identify and understand anthropogenic threats to leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Objective 2: Understanding Leatherback Turtle Life History Characteristics.  Support research and monitoring that will fill knowledge gaps concerning general organismal traits of leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Objective 3: Habitat Identification and Protection.  Identify and protect habitat of leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters.

 Objective 4:Risk Reduction.  Minimize risk of harm to leatherback turtles from anthropogenic activities under Canadian jurisdiction.

Objective 5:Education.  Develop and implement education activities that support leatherback turtle recovery in Canada.

Objective 6: International Initiatives.  Promote international initiatives contributing to the recovery of leatherback turtles.

Following each objective is a series of strategies that, when implemented, will directly respond to their corresponding objective.  These strategies attempt to provide sufficient level of detail in order to facilitate the next step of recovery planning, which is the development of recovery action plans.

The six recovery objectives and their respective strategies are as follows:

Objective 1: Understand Threats.  Identify and understand anthropogenic threats to leatherback turtles in Atlantic waters.

 Rationale:

The current state of knowledge about threats to leatherback turtles in Canadian waters is poor.  Much more information, and synthesis of information, are needed to guide recovery activities, and to guide communication about them.  Implementation of the following strategies will enhance the ability to assess and evaluate these threats and to work towards developing appropriate mitigation measures.

 Strategies:

a)     Synthesize and evaluate existing data on commercial fishing activities known to, or having the potential to, impact survival and recovery.

b)     Synthesize and evaluate existing data on offshore development activities known to, or having the potential to, impact survival and recovery.

c)     Identify and understand the level of threat to leatherback turtles from marine debris and pollution.

d)     Identify and understand other activities that may pose a threat to leatherback turtles (e.g. vessel interactions, military activities).

Objective 2: Understanding Leatherback Turtle Life History Characteristics.  Support research and monitoring that will fill knowledge gaps concerning general organismal traits of leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Rationale:The current state of knowledge about the basic biology and ecology of leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters is poor.  More understanding is required for recovery efforts to be most effective.

Strategies:

 a)     Synthesize existing knowledge from research and monitoring activities undertaken regarding leatherback turtles.

b)     Support research on basic knowledge gaps identified from (a) including, but not limited to, foraging ecology, diving behaviour, life history, distribution, and demographics.

Objective 3: Habitat Identification and Protection.  Take steps to identify and protect habitat utilized by leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canadian waters.

Rationale:

The lack of information about the biology and ecology of leatherback turtles is paralleled by what is not known of their habitat requirements, especially in Atlantic Canada.  The following strategies will attempt to acquire further information about habitat so that it may be protected in the future.  A schedule of studies regarding critical habitat identification can be found in Appendix B.

Strategies:

a)     Undertake research to identify habitat use by leatherback turtles in Atlantic Canada

b)     Assess the distribution and abundance of leatherback turtle prey (and/or develop oceanographic proxies for turtle prey that can be assessed using remote sensing or sampling).

c)     Assess the extent that critical habitat exists in Atlantic Canadian waters.

d)     Assess and evaluate tools for habitat protection.

Objective 4: Risk Reduction.  Minimize risk of harm to leatherback turtles from anthropogenic activities under Canadian jurisdiction.

Rationale:

Once threats and risks have been identified (Objective 1), it will be necessary to develop activities to mitigate those threats.  Lack of full knowledge or understanding of threats should not preclude proactive work to reduce risk to the turtles.  Many mitigation activities, including stewardship, will be developed based on outcomes of research activities and threats identified in the above Objectives.

Strategies:   

a)     Implement, when possible, mitigation measures to minimize human-induced mortality.

b)     Further develop measures that will reduce known harm from human activities (e.g. vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, stranding response teams, entanglement and stranding response teams).

c)     Utilize stewardship programmes developed under Objective 5 to engage stakeholders in the implementation of mitigation measures.

Objective 5: Education.  Develop and implement education activities that support leatherback turtle recovery in Canada.

 Rationale:

Education is an important tool to further recovery efforts through both stakeholders and the general public.  Specific documents and programmes should be developed, targeting a variety of audiences.  This kind of education programme should result in improved marine environmental health overall.

 Strategies:

a)     Develop programmes for educating Canadians about leatherback turtle conservation.

b)     Develop initiatives to educate and train stakeholders about their role in leatherback turtle conservation.

Objective 6: International Initiatives.  Promote international initiatives contributing to the recovery of leatherback turtles.

Rationale:

Canada has the opportunity to play a role in conservation of leatherback turtles throughout their range.  A variety of Canadian organizations and agencies can influence activities in other countries, ultimately contributing to improvements in the conservation status of the species throughout its range.

Strategies:

a)     Investigate options for Canadian participation in and promotion of international agreements and conventions that promote leatherback turtle protection and recovery.

b)     Collaborate with U.S. agencies, other range nations, and international bodies, on leatherback turtle conservation initiatives, when possible.



[1] The recovery goal corresponds with the SARA requirement to include “a statement of the population and distribution objectives that will assist the survival and recovery of the species.” [SARA s.41(1d)]

[2] Collectively, the following recovery objectives constitute “a broad strategy to address previously identified threats [SARA s.41 (1b)]; and a “general description of the research and management activities needed.”  [SARA s.41 (d)] to achieve the recovery goal.