The Leatherback Turtle was listed endangered on June 2, 1970. The current estimated population is 20,000 - 30,000 female Leatherbacks worldwide. The current trends of their population in the United States are unknown. Elsewhere, their population is continuing to decline. The declining populations of Leatherbacks are found in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad, and Tobago. Nesting activity has also declined in French Guyana due to erosions of nesting beaches. The population in that area has shifted to Surinam, where annual number of nests has risen from less than 100 (1976) to 5,565 (1977), and 9,816 (1987).
The reasons of their decline are the loss of habitat, incidental catching in commercial fisheries, and harvesting of eggs and flesh.
The Leatherback is the largest living turtle and is so distinctive as to be placed in a separate taxonomic family, Dermochelyidae. The carapace is distinguished by a rubber-like texture. It is about 2 inches (4cm) thick. The carapace is made primarily of tough, oil-saturated connective tissue raised into 7 prominent ridges and tapered to a blunt point posterior. The average curved carapace length for nesting female Leatherbacks is 61 inches (155cm). It weighs around 578 - 1115 pounds (262-506kg). Their skin is black with pale spots. Leatherbacks have no scales. The under surface is mottled with pinkish-white and black. The front flippers are longer than any other marine turtles and may span up to 106 inches (270cm) for adult males. Male adults can be distinguished from females by their long thick tail.