Wondering what our leatherback sea turtles have been up to before the race began? You may not know that leatherbacks feed on jellyfish in Canadian waters, before they are off to make their epic migration to their southern nesting beaches and wintering waters.
Here in Canada, they face three major threats:
- In Canadian waters, leatherbacks are at risk when they become accidentally entangled in fishing gear. They can drown if they are entangled in a way that prevents them from breathing air. They can also be severely injured in fishing gear, and can later die as a result of those injuries.
- Leatherbacks are also at risk in Canadian waters when they mistake plastics floating in the water for jellyfish and eat them. The plastic can block their gut causing them to starve, or it can prevent them from properly absorbing the nutrients in their diet.
- Leatherbacks in Canada are also occasionally killed when they are hit by ships. We do not yet know the full extent of the threats posed to leatherbacks by oil and gas exploration or by climate change.
But all is not lost. There are plenty of people who care about this beautiful reptile and are committed to conserving the species. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is continuously working on risk analyses for this species, aiming to predict where in Canada the biggest dangers are for this turtle, and how we can protect it. Moreover, the leatherback is protected under federal law with the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Furthermore, there are people on the front lines that are working hard to protect the leatherback. More and more fishermen are adopting best practices to avoid entangling turtles in their fishing line. They’re using less rope in recent years and they are also conscious of the turtles, allowing them to pass through the area before casting their nets. Moreover, when they spot an entangled leatherback, many are reporting their sightings to the Canadian Sea Turtle Network and requesting help to free the turtles.
Take a look at our pre-race map to see them in action in Canadian waters!