Conserving Critically Endangered Hawksbill Turtles, Nicaragua

Timeframe: 2020 – 2023
Country/Region: Nicaragua
Partner: Fauna & Flora

Nicaragua’s varied and beautiful landscapes include tropical rainforest, lakes, volcanoes and spectacular marine environments all of which are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife. The country’s Pacific coast extends over 400km with a marine ecosystem that is recognized as one of the most important sea turtle habitats in the Americas. Its beaches provide crucial nesting habitat for hawksbill, leatherback and olive ridley turtles.

The hawksbill turtle is Critically Endangered and among the most threatened of the world’s seven marine turtle species. Illegal harvesting, trade of turtle eggs and bycatch from fishing are a primary threat; pollution, coastal development, and climate change also threaten their future, and conservation efforts are hampered by a lack of law enforcement.

The project implemented by Fauna & Flora focuses on the conservation of hawksbills in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a region with a once abundant population, now estimated to be home to only 700 nesting females. Fauna & Flora’s long-term goal is for the population of hawksbill turtles in these waters to reach 2’000 breeding females within 30 years, by maximising hatchling release and minimising bycatch. Over the next 10 years, they aim to stabilise the population at, or above, the current level of 700 breeding adult females, while released hatchlings are growing to maturity.

To achieve this, Fauna & Flora will carry out their activities at the most important nesting and foraging sites in northern Nicaragua, which support over 50% of the known population of hawksbills in the eastern Pacific. The project’s specific objectives are the following:

  • Maximise hawksbill nesting and hatching success at the Estero Padre Ramos and Aserradores sites, by maintaining high levels of protection and monitoring across 16.5km of priority nesting beach throughout the hawksbill nesting season; and
  • Reduce bycatch of hawksbills in key foraging grounds in northern Nicaragua, working with artisanal gillnet and longline fishers at four priority sites to reduce harmful turtle interactions.