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Leatherback Turtles
Have Become
Critically Endangered

Leatherback-head_ScottEckert.jpg
Leatherback Turtle. Photo: Scott Eckert

From Before
The Age Of Dinosaurs

Turtles are much older than we are: in fact, the ancestors of leatherback turtles lived well before the age of dinosaurs. Today, leatherback turtles are one of the most critically endangered animals on the planet, they can be found occasionally off of both of Canada's coasts. These turtles are powerful swimmers with hydrodynamic tear-shaped bodies. Due to its unique "leather back," lack of shell and enormous size, a leatherback turtle cannot be confused with any other kind of turtle.
Visit our Leatherback turtles AquaFacts

Leatherback Turtle
Endangered Leatherback Turtle

Why They Have Become Critically Endangered

Leatherbacks nest on specific ocean beaches in tropical and sub-tropical areas, which are being lost to tourism and commercial development. Other threats include humans picking up their eggs, natural predation, illumination of nesting beaches (which disorients hatchlings and prevents them from heading directly for the ocean), shoreline and ocean pollution, and entanglement in fishing gear.

Our Conservation And Research Role

Through the BC Cetacean Sighting Network the Vancouver Aquarium, with the assistance of a federal initiative called the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, is involved in gathering knowledge about this incredible animal. Additionally, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is developing a recovery plan specific to leatherback turtles.
Review the recovery plan

Leatherback Conservation
How You Can Help

How You Can Help

Participate in our conservation efforts by reporting sightings of sea turtles in and around coastal British Columbian waters. This helps us learn how many are here and what they're doing. If you see a sea turtle in or around B.C. waters, please send us a report. You can now report online or call our toll-free sightings phone line: 1-866-I-SAW-ONE (1-866-472-9663).

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is another great way to get involved. Garbage, if left alone, can wash into the ocean and severely injure turtles and other marine life. Leatherback turtles often ingest plastic and other debris mistaken for prey. Cleaning up garbage before it gets into the ocean will keep the turtle's habitat safer.


How To Identify A Leatherback

Leatherback turtles are the most commonly seen sea turtle in coastal B.C. waters and it is almost impossible to mistake them for any other sea life.

  • Can be greater than 6 feet long, weigh up to one tonne, with large flippers
  • Seven ridges run along their back (it looks like the bottom of a boat)
  • Browny-black color with speckled white markings on the head and flippers
Leatherback Turtle

How To Identify
Green Sea Turtles

Green turtles are the second most likely visitors to the British Columbia coast. Their ancestors originally evolved on land and only took to the ocean about 150 million years ago.

  • Up to 4 feet long
  • Oval shaped shell made up of bony plates called scutes
  • Shell colour varies from pale to dark green, and from plain colour to vivid combinations of yellow, brown and green
Green Sea Turtle

How To Identify
Loggerhead Turtles

Loggerhead sea turtles, which are beautifully coloured, received their names because their heads resemble a big log. They have powerful jaws that they use to crush prey, such as horseshoe crabs and conchs.

  • Approximately 3 feet long
  • Heart- shaped shell
  • Reddish in colour
  • Large head and jaws
Loggerhead Turtle

How To Identify
Olive Ridley Turtles

Olive Ridley sea turtles are named for the colouring of their heart-shaped shell, which starts out grey and slowly turns olive green as they turn into adults. You can also see one or two claws on each of their paddle-like flippers.

  • Up to 3 feet long
  • Nearly round shell
  • Uniform grey or olive colour
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle Photo: Parks Canada
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