Carmel Magazine

Spring/Summer 2020

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124 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 2 0 plete extinction currently expected by 2080. The Western is predicted to be gone by 2100." Why? These reptiles cover huge distances in their search for food, and like a few other species, they do a remarkable thing: return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs in the sand. "The Western population hatches in Indon- esia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands," Shillinger explains. And they swim here to dine on delicious Monterey jelly- fish. The distance from Vanuatu to Carmel is 5,858 miles as the seagull flies and there are plenty of perils along the way, mostly man-made. Danger is present at ever y phase of a leatherback's life. Poachers (human and non) snatch their eggs from their sandy nests and birds and other wildlife pick newborn baby tur- tles off while they're making the mad dash to sea, where other predators lurk. If they survive to adulthood, they are vulner- able to becoming bycatch to the fishing industry. Shillinger says there is no market for their meat, and many times if a turtle's flipper gets snared in a longline hook the boat crew will simply cut off the fin to save the hook. Because they like rest near the surface and bask in the sun, many tur- tles are struck by passing ships. And another extreme danger is posed by something that looks a lot like their favorite food. In the depths of the ocean a common plastic shopping bag bears a striking resem- blance to a jellyfish. The first step in the effort to intervene and turn the tide of leatherback extinction is to As they toddle to the ocean upon hatching, vulnerable, newborn leatherbacks confront the first of a lifetime of lethal threats. Photo: Buiten-Beeld / Alamy Stock Photo Photo: Michael Patrick O'Neill / Alamy Stock Photo

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