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Eastern Pacific Hawksbills

Eastern Pacific Hawksbills

Credit SEETURTLES

The Pacific coast of the America’s for decades was a black hole for information on hawksbill sea turtles. Generally they live in coral reefs (this region does not have many reefs), few nesting beaches were known, and they were not frequently spotted, so many people believed there were too few in the region to invest the energy to protect them. But previously unknown (to the sea turtle community) nesting beaches in Nicaragua and El Salvador were found, and efforts to protect these beaches were launched in the late 2000’s.

The Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO), a network of researchers, non-profits, and local communities, was created to support research and conservation efforts from Mexico to Peru. Researchers discovered that hawksbills in this region live in mangroves, upending long-held beliefs about hawksbills. Now ten nesting beaches and fifteen foraging areas are being protected, representing more than 90 percent of known nesting for this population. There are now believed to be at least 1,000 adult hawksbills in the region. Two major beaches, one each in El Salvador and Nicaragua, are fully protected by conservation organizations (ProCosta in El Salvador and Fauna & Flora International in Nicaragua).

 

Photo: Eastern Pacific hawksbill from Padre Ramos, Nicaragua (Brad Nahill / SEE Turtles)

The efforts of this growing community of residents, researchers, and others are paying off. According to Michael Liles of ProCosta, “We have flipped the script of the fate of hawksbills in Jiquilisco Bay in El Salvador--the most important nesting site in the eastern Pacific--going from 0% of hawksbills nests protected in 2007 to over 95% protected in 2018." For these efforts, ICAPO received the Champions Award in 2016 from the International Sea Turtle Society. Our Billion Baby Turtles and conservation travel programs have supported these efforts since 2011.

 

Photo: Eastern Pacific hawksbill from Padre Ramos, Nicaragua (Brad Nahill / SEE Turtles)