Enhanced, coordinated conservation efforts required to avoid extinction of critically endangered Eastern Pacific leatherback turtles

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Abstract

Failure to improve the conservation status of endangered species is often related to inadequate allocation of conservation resources to highest priority issues. Eastern Pacific (EP) leatherbacks are perhaps the most endangered sea turtle population in the world, and continue on a path to regional extinction. To provide coherent, regional conservation targets, we developed a population viability analysis and examined hypothetical scenarios describing effects of conservation activities that either reduced mortality or increased production of hatchlings (or both). Under status quo conditions, EP leatherbacks will be extirpated in <60 yr. To ensure a positive, long-term population trajectory, conservation efforts must increase adult survivorship (i.e., reduce adult mortality) by ≥20%, largely through reduction of fisheries bycatch mortality. Positive trajectories can be accelerated by increased production of hatchlings through enhanced nest protection and treatment. We estimate that these efforts must save approximately 200–260 adult and subadult leatherbacks and produce approximately 7,000–8,000 more hatchlings annually. Critically, reductions in late-stage mortality must begin within 5 years and reach 20% overall within the next 10–15 years to ensure population stabilization and eventual increase. These outcomes require expanded, sustained, coordinated, high-priority efforts among several entities working at multiple scales. Fortunately, such efforts are underway.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4772
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

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