Project Cost covers:
On the ground, funding will go to support community based sea turtle conservation at a globally important sea turtle nesting area.
First, funds will support community rangers who will protect nesting sea turtles at three priority beaches. Funds will help cover ranger salaries and will also support the purchase of supplies for these rangers, primarily, solar powered flashlights, sun hats, and life jackets.
Second, funds will be used to support a sea turtle hatchery at the Ostional beach that is managed by a group of women from the same community. We will purchase materials to build interpretive signs and for improved monitoring of the nests (i.e. purchase of thermometers, nest-markers, baskets). The women’s sea turtle hatchery will be prepared to receive tourists who would like to learn about sea turtle life history.
In addition, a portion of the funds will support marketing and outreach activities to encourage US travellers to visit these communities and create viable sustainable tourism.
Objectives, Aims, and Outcomes
The primary aim of this project is to increase the long-term protection of endangered sea turtles in Nicaragua and the Eastern Pacific
Specific objectives include:
- Promote sustainable tourism to increase economic development linked to sea turtle conservation
- Build local capacity for sea turtle tourism and natural resource stewardship
- Empower local people in protecting nesting sea turtles from illegal poaching activity
The result of the project will be an improved sea turtle hatchery managed by local women, a strengthening of sea turtle protection activities led by local rangers, and increased income to community-based tourism businesses and a community-run sea turtle hatchery.
Background on current situation
Sea turtles throughout the world’s oceans are threatened, and species such as the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles of the Eastern Pacific are nearing extinction (Sarti-Martínez et al. 2007, Chaloupka et al. 2004). Four different species nest along Pacific beaches of Southern Nicaragua at the project site, these are: Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivaceae), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and Pacific Green (Chelonia mydas). The project site has the largest documented nesting populations of Pacific Green Turtles in Nicaragua. Despite its global importance, sea turtle nest poaching is widespread in Nicaragua. At unprotected beaches, 100% of nests located are lost. Local people and fishermen track the beaches at night for nesting turtles, and upon finding a nest, they immediately harvest all eggs. Poachers sell captured sea turtle eggs to middlemen who take the eggs to urban centers where they are sold at public markets and restaurants throughout Nicaragua. Local people who initially sell the eggs receive between a $1.5 USD and $3 USD per dozen eggs. The sea turtle egg trade in Nicaragua is influenced by the pervasiveness of rural poverty and the culture of turtle eggs as food.
Local people turn to the sea turtle egg trade as a way to supplement their small cash incomes from subsistence farming and artisanal fishing. The proposed program will reduce the trade of sea turtle eggs through providing employment in sea turtle protection, by improving conditions at a community-run sea turtle hatchery, and through promoting alternative economic opportunities in tourism
Our principal partner on the ground is Paso Pacifico, a non-profit conservation organization focused on conserving and restoring Pacific forest and coastal ecosystems in Central America. Since 2006, Paso Pacifico has been working with six communities located along the Rivas coast of the San Juan del Sur municipality. Initially, Paso Pacifico focused on building a trusting relationship with the community through a series of conflict mediation workshops and interviews (there is a historical conflict with authorities over the egg trade), and through sea turtle educational workshops. In early 2008, Paso Pacifico hired and provided training to six local fishermen (some former egg poachers) to work full time protecting beaches. These professional community “rangers” patrol three important beaches twenty four hours a day. SEE Turtles and Paso Pacifico coordinates its turtle protection efforts with the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Environment and collaborates with other NGOs focused on sea turtle protection including PRETOMA, Fauna and Flora International, and the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative.
How this project fits into a larger strategy
The aim of SEE Turtles is to use the power of conservation travel to support community-based conservation programs. We work with local turtle organizations in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, and Trinidad to increase funding for turtle conservation and encourage economic alternatives to threats to sea turtles. Since our launch in 2008, we have generated approximately $280,000 for conservation and nearby communities and connected more than 100 volunteers who have completed more than 1,000 work shifts. SEE Turtles is a non-profit project fiscally sponsored by The Ocean Foundation.
Can I visit this project?
Yes! We can help set up volunteers and travellers to visit this project through one of our tour operator partners. Click here for more information.