Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) This circumglobal species generally forages in temperate waters and nests in tropical and subtropical latitudes on beaches of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Leatherbacks appear to spend the first portion of their lives entirely in tropical waters; those less than 100 cm in carapace length occur only in waters warmer than 26°C, whereas adults may venture to high latitude waters in summer (e.g., see Goff and Lien 1988, Eckert 2002) and occur occasionally in inshore waters.
Significant nesting areas include Malaysia (at least formerly), Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, and Atlantic shore of northern South America. Largest population worldwide is in the western Atlantic (Spotila et al. 1996). In the Western Hemisphere, nesting also occurs in Florida (very rarely north to Georgia), along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, in the West Indies, and along the Atlantic shore of Central America and the Pacific shore of northern South America. In the western Caribbean, nesting is frequent from northern Costa Rica to Colombia and in eastern French Guiana and western Surinam. Some nesting occurs along the central Brazilian coast; important colonies are in northwestern Guyana and in Trinidad. In the Antilles, most nesting occurs in the Dominican Republic and on islands close to Puerto Rico, including Culebra and St. Croix (the largest, best-studied population in U.S. waters).
A general aggregation of leatherbacks is known to occur in the Pacific north of the Hawaiian Islands year-round, and in the Atlantic seasonal concentrations occur during the summer and fall months in the northeastern United States and Canada in areas such as Cape Cod Bay, the Gulf of Maine, the Scotian Shelf, and Cape Breton.