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About the Project

Background

We have been working in San Ignacio Lagoon since 2006, first to conduct mortality census of marine turtles and then  in 2010 to understand short-term movements of marine turtles and their interaction with fishing gears.

In 2010, Boomerang For Earth Conservation joined efforts with the local team and since we have been conducting yearly a San Ignacio Lagoon Sea Turtle Festival and starting in 2011 we organized the “One Month For Conservation” during which children from local schools learnt about natural resources of the lagoon through field trips and other activities.

This year, we joined forces with Grupo Tortuguero, a local NGO, in order to:

  1. Implement monthly surveys of marine turtles in San Ignacio Lagoon to obtain information on population abundance and structure in that area;
  2. Carry out activities aiming to help the youngest members of the community to increase their knowledge of resources in San Ignacio lagoon and work with other members of the community (particularly women) to increase their involvement in the conservation activities;
  3. Continue the tradition of the Sea Turtle Festival as a way to celebrate nature in the lagoon;
  4. Conduct a feasibility study to understand how to transform the monthly monitoring into an eco-tourism attraction year-round.

Importance of the work

This work has two components: a scientific and a social one. From a scientific point of view, long term in-water monitoring of marine turtle populations are known to provide trends on the status of these populations. In San Ignacio, a monthly monitoring has been carried out in the northern part of the lagoon since 1992. However further studies onshort-term movements of marine turtles in the lagoon revealed that turtles in the northern part of the lagoon are separated from those in the southern part. They should thus be considered as two different populations submitted to different kinds of pressures. It is also thought that while in the northern side of the lagoon most of the turtles are small juveniles, the southern part host mainly sub-adult and adult turtles which survival is considered fundamental for the recovery of depleted populations. Monthly monitoring of green turtles in the southern part of the lagoon will provide important information on this species in the lagoon thus providing us with knowledge to be used for conservation actions.

From the social component of this work we hope to achieve the following:

  1. We hope to inspire young generations to protect their environment,
  2. By empowering women we hope to strength their role as members of the community,
  3. By involving fishermen in sea turtle conservation work, we hope to decrease the consumption of marine turtles,
  4. By creating an alternative income source, we hope to reduce the pressure from fishing activities in the lagoon.

Activities and Methodology

Objective 1:

In collaboration with Grupo Tortuguero, we will implement 24hr monitoring of marine turtles in their feeding grounds to be done monthly by a group of 2-4 fishermen. The fishermen will receive a training and special equipment in order to conduct the survey. The surveys consist of using a specially designed nylon and cotton entanglement net in the same monitoring site for 24hrs. The net is monitored regularly (every 1.5 hr) for entangled turtles. Turtles are then removed from the net, measured, weighed, tagged and photographed. Finally turtles are released back in the water. It was found that capture and handling of turtles do not have any long term impact on the animals which tend to quicklyswim back to the location where they were captured.

Objective 2 and 3:

We will transform our current intensive project “One month for Conservation” into a series of events spread throughout the year, with activities to be carried out on a monthly basis, when possible, coinciding with the monthly monitoring of marine turtles. These events will be organized in collaboration with other NGOs working on the territory. Activities will target both young and adults living in the lagoon. A local coordinator will insure that all the planned events will go as smoothly as possible. These activities will be carried out during week-ends and will include: workshops, field trips, artistic performances.

Activities will include:

  • Workshops from ProNatura on birds and mangroves;
  • Workshops from ReBiVi on the value of the protected areas;
  • Presentation from Iemanya Oceanica on sharks and rays;
  • Travelling marine museum for a closer contact with marine microscopic life;
  • Photography workshop;
  • Mural for conservation
  • More activities to come including an hands-on experience with the newly created monitoring team!

Objective 4

We will undertake a study to understand the needs of the monitoring group in order to implement an eco-tourism project with the in-water turtle monitoring.

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