What it looks like: The Leatherback Turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles. It can weigh up to 500 kg and have a shell length of over one and a half metres. Its leathery shell has five longitudinal ridges and tapers to a point at the tail end. It is black with lighter spots. The shells of hatchlings are black with white markings on the ridges.

Leatherback Turtle - Dermochelys coriacea

Photo: © EPA Qld

Where it lives: Rather than congregating around reefs or seagrass meadows, Leatherback Turtles take jellyfish and other marine macro-plankton from open ocean waters. There are few records on Leatherback Turtles nesting in Australia, and the time they spend in Northern Territory waters may be fleeting, as they prefer to feed in the temperate zone.

Importance as an indicator: Leatherback Turtle populations are a reflection of the fishing and hunting activities across their range, as well as predation levels at nesting sites, which are outside the Northern Territory. This species is particularly vulnerable to marine pollution, prone to mistaking plastic bags for jelly-fish.

Look after Leatherback Turtle and other sea turtles by cleaning up marine debris, particularly abandoned ghost nests, and prevent plastic bags from contributing to marine pollution. Take measures to prevent turtles ending their days as bycatch. On commercial fishing boats, fit appropriate turtle exclusion or bycatch reduction devices to fishing nets. Any hunting of turtles should be under a sustainable harvest plan.

Best Practice Management for Leatherback Turtle

* Limit harvest to sustainable levels * Reduce bycatch * Clean up ghost nets * Prevent marine pollution

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