New Loggerhead Red List Assessments Published


A loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). © Mito Paz / Marine Photobank

A new IUCN Red List Assessment of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is now available online.

The assessment was completed by the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, a global network of sea turtle experts. This is the second sea turtle species (after the leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea) that has been assessed at both the global and subpopulation levels using IUCN Red List Criteria. Red List assessments at the subpopulation level are much more meaningful for conservation planning than those done solely at the global scale, especially for wide-ranging species like sea turtles.

Globally, the loggerhead turtle is now listed as Vulnerable. The 10 loggerhead subpopulations have been assigned to categories ranging from “Critically Endangered” to “Least Concern,” representing in most cases a change from the “Endangered” category to which the species as a whole was assigned in the previous assessment from 1996. Given the increasing use of the IUCN Red List to inform conservation priorities in a variety of contexts, we want to clarify some aspects of the Red List in order to avoid misinterpretations about the status of those loggerhead subpopulations that are now listed as “Near Threatened” or “Least Concern.”

The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria represent one approach for assessing and comparing the conservation status of very different species, with a specific aim to identify species and subpopulations facing imminent or high risk of extinction globally based on past, current, and expected future conditions and anthropogenic factors.

Loggerhead subpopulations that have been newly listed in the categories “Near Threatened” or “Least Concern” indicate that those subpopulations are not at imminent/high risk of extinction. However, this evaluation is based on their present situation, which takes into account the results of past conservation efforts, many of which have been in place for decades. In this respect, the current status of these subpopulations represents a measure of the success of past conservation efforts. For this reason, these subpopulations need to be considered to be conservation-dependent. Any decrease of the current conservation effort would very likely be detrimental. Indeed, it is only because of such prolonged conservation efforts that some loggerhead subpopulations are now being categorized as “Near Threatened” and “Least Concern” rather than higher categories of threat like “Vulnerable,” “Endangered,” and “Critically Endangered.” Moreover, within a subpopulation categorized as “Least Concern” or “Near Threatened” there may still be sea turtle stocks that are facing a high risk of extinction at a national or local level.

Red List assessments are updated regularly to reflect the most current and best available data, and as such the Red List status of loggerheads may change with time. All the loggerhead subpopulations must be monitored and studied further in order to assure that conservation strategies and interventions are adjusted to respond to possible future changes. Red List assessments are policy relevant rather than policy prescriptive, and to derive adequate policies at regional or national levels may require many different types of assessments.

Based on the present state of knowledge, all loggerhead subpopulations are in need of intensive conservation measures to improve or to maintain their current conservation status.

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New Leatherback Red List Assessments Published

First-ever combined subpopulation listing and global listing show variation in leatherback status worldwide.

Leatherback turtle. © Brian HutchinsonFor decades, the IUCN SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group has debated the utility and appropriateness of single global listings on the Red List of Threatened Species for widely distributed, long-lived marine turtle species. The main disadvantage of global listings is that they fail to describe and assess wide variations in marine turtle population dynamics, extinction risk, and conservation status across subpopulations, so can lead to misleading and confusing results.

Today marks an important breakthrough for marine turtle Red List assessments. The IUCN Red List Authority has published the new leatherback Red List assessments, which, for the first time, include subpopulation-level listings—not simply a global listing. This is the first time that any marine turtle species has been officially assessed, globally, to the subpopulation level, and sets an important precedent for other marine turtle Red List assessments, as well as red listing of other widely distributed, long-lived species, such as sharks, marine mammals, and seabirds.

These assessment results reflected the wide variation in leatherback subpopulation status, accurately highlighting subpopulations that have declined greatly over time, as well as those that are small and /or geographically restricted, and merit Critically Endangered status. These subpopulations require effective protection and reduction of threats to ensure their future existence.

Leatherback turtle, Trinidad. © Brian HutchinsonGlobally, leatherback status is now Vulnerable. East Pacific, West Pacific, Southwest Atlantic, and Southwest Indian Ocean subpopulations were listed as “Critically Endangered,” Northwest Atlantic leatherbacks were listed as “Least Concern,” and Northeast Indian Ocean and Southeast Atlantic subpopulations were listed as “Data Deficient.”

We are working on Red List updates to several other marine turtle species using this subpopulation approach, as well as other improvements to how we interpret and apply Red List criteria to marine turtle assessments.

Check out the IUCN Red List website to view the new leatherback subpopulation Red List assessments.

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MTSG Member Wins Whitley Award for Nature

The UK-based Whitley Fund for Nature awarded Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto, an MTSG member from Lima (Peru), with one of the world’s most prestigious wildlife conservation awards – the Whitley Award.

The results were announced during a ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in May, at which the Whitley Fund for Nature’s patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) presented the prizes. Continue reading

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Hawaiian Green Turtle Red List Assessment Accepted

We are pleased to report that the Red List Assessment of the Hawaiian subpopulation of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) has been accepted by IUCN. As detailed in our last post, the final assessment of the Hawaiian green turtle concluded a status of Least Concern for this subpopulation. This status is a testament to the decades of collaborative research and conservation in Hawaii that allowed the population to recover, and gives hope to the recovery of depleted marine turtle populations in other parts of the world. The final assessment is available on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Website (Update: IUCN is currently experiencing technical difficulties with their website. In the meantime you may download the PDF here). Continue reading

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Hawaiian Green Turtle Red List Assessment Revised

A version of a Red List Assessment of the Hawaiian subpopulation of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) was completed by Nicolas Pilcher, Milani Chaloupka, and Erin Woods and submitted by the MTSG to IUCN for consideration late last year. This followed a review of the draft assessment by the entire MTSG and the Assessment Steering Committee, and multiple rounds of revision.

The IUCN Red List Office recently provided comments on the draft 2011 assessment and considered that our conclusion of a Near Threatened status was not consistent with the restricted area of habitat assessment criterion used in the draft assessment. We had erred on the side of caution by concluding Near Threatened but on further reflection we have now revised the assessment given a more detailed consideration of the assessment Criterion B. Continue reading

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