A critical assessment and gap analysis of existing recovery strategies for the Atlantic Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) [graduate project]
MacKinnon, Emiley Faithe
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The leatherback sea turtle (Dermocheyls coriacea) is the fourth largest and most widely distributed species of reptile. There are three distinct populations in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The leatherback is globally categorized as Vulnerable by the ICUN, and faces a number of anthropogenic threats, both in its nesting and foraging habitats, that are causing concern for the conservation and survival of the species. Due to its vast distribution in the Atlantic many countries have created recovery plans to aid in managing the leatherback. Recovery plans from the United States, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Guianas, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica were evaluated using a set of indicators to assess implementation mechanisms and management and conservation efforts. Trinidad and Tobago had the most well addressed indicators, followed by Jamaica. However, all recovery plans evaluated had a respectable amount of well-addressed indicators. Threats were generally well addressed, however management gaps were seen in addressing the effects of sea level rise and climate change, and within addressing threats to the critical foraging habitat. Further, persistent challenges were identified in assessing leatherback abundance and identifying critical habitat. Further research could aid in addressing these knowledge gaps and along with the recommendations of this study could strengthen leatherback management for future recovery plan initiatives.