Research Document - 2015/079

Information relevant to the identification of critical habitat for Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in Canadian Pacific waters

By Edward J. Gregr, Rowenna Gryba, Michael C. James, Lucas Brotz, and Sheila J. Thornton

Abstract

In 1981, Leatherback Sea Turtle populations in Canadian waters were assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as Endangered. This status was confirmed in 2001, and in 2003, the Leatherback Sea Turtle was listed as Endangered on Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). In May 2012, the species was reassessed as two separate populations (Atlantic and Pacific). Both populations continue to be designated as Endangered.

As part of the SARA recovery process, the “Recovery Strategy for the Leatherback Turtle populations in Pacific Canadian waters” was published on the SARA Registry in February 2007. For species listed as Threatened or Endangered, SARA requires identification of the habitat necessary for the survival or recovery of a listed wildlife species. Once this habitat is identified in the final recovery strategy or action plan, it is deemed the species’ “critical habitat” and afforded legal protection from destruction under the Act. Leatherback Sea Turtles feed on scyphozoan prey in temperate high latitude locales, such as the Canadian Pacific coast. We used an envelope model to locate suitable habitat for Leatherback Sea Turtle foraging, and describe the biophysical function and features of suitable habitat in Canadian Pacific waters.

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