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Recovery Strategy for Leatherback Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in Pacific Canadian Waters

Leatherback Turtle by Scott A. Eckert – WIDECAST © 1989
Leatherback Turtle

October 2006


Responsible Jurisdictions
Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is“to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. Sections 37–46 of SARAoutline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more

To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat (

Recommended citation:

Pacific Leatherback Turtle Recovery Team. 2006. Recovery Strategy for Leatherback Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) in Pacific Canadian Waters. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver, v + 41 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry.

Cover illustrations: Leatherback Turtle by Scott A. Eckert – WIDECAST © 1989

Également disponible en français sous le titre :

« Programme de rétablissement de la tortue luth (Dermochelys coriacea) dans les eaux canadiennes du Pacifique »

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, 2006. All rights reserved.

ISBN 0-662-44262-8

Catalogue no. En3-4/13-2006E-PDF

Content (excluding the illustration) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


This recovery strategy for Leatherback Turtles in Pacific Canadian Waters has been prepared in cooperation with jurisdictions responsible for the species, as described under Responsible Jurisdictions. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the Leatherback Turtle as required by the Species at Risk Act.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada invites all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the leatherback turtle and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will endeavor to support implementation of this strategy, given available resources and varying species at risk conservation priorities. The Minister will report on progress within five years.

This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The Minister will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians directly affected by these measures will be consulted.

Responsible Jurisdictions

The recovery strategy for Pacific Leatherback Turtles was developed by the Pacific Leatherback Turtle Recovery Team on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Pacific leatherback turtles occur off the coast of British Columbia, and the government of this province also cooperated in the production of this recovery strategy.


The strategy was prepared by the Pacific Leatherback Turtle Recovery Team.


This Recovery Strategy for Leatherback Turtles in Pacific Canadian Waters was produced through the collective efforts of the Recovery Team (see Section 5), all of whom were generous in contributing their own time in meetings and in many revisions of the document. Brian Harvey wrote the text, based on research and technical input from individual team members and from group discussions. The team also thanks Chris Willcock for her assistance in preparation of the first draft and is grateful for the expert reviews provided by Cynthia Vernon, Milani Chaloupka, Frank Paladino and Kitty Simonds. Figure 1 and the cover photo were provided by Scott Eckert. Figure 2 was produced by Barbara Lucas, with sightings input from Lisa Spaven.

Strategic Environmental Assessment Statement

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, the purpose of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the Pacific leatherback turtle. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that this strategy will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. Refer to the following sections of the document in particular: Ecological role; Social and economic considerations; Strategies to achieve recovery; and the Recommended approach/scale for recovery.


SARA defines residence as:

"a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or hibernating" [SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted when available on the SARA public registry.

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