Marine turtle monitoring and conservation hand-in-hand.

A three year review from Playa Norte, Costa Rica
*Stephanny Arroyo Arce1, Wing Tsui1, Diogo Verissimo1, Julie Jackson2, James Lewis2, David Aneurin Jones1 and Rebeca Chaverri1

Global Vision International Costa Rica, Apartado Postal 78-7209, Cariari de Pococí, Limón, Costa Rica. Email: 2University of Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QJ, UK.

Presented to the XIII Mesoamerican Congress of Biology and Conservation, Belize 2009. Situated just north of Tortuguero National Park (TNP) on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, Playa Norte is an edge land that faces many challenges. An area rich in biodiversity, marine turtles are no exception with Dermochelys coriacea, Eretmochelys imbricata, Chelonia mydas, and occasionally Caretta caretta, congregating in the area each year in their thousands to make use of the beaches to nest. Tortuguero is named for the turtles it receives, most notably C. mydas, and due to the work of Archie Carr and the subsequent longstanding presence of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, who work within the Archie Carr Refuge and TNP. Every year tens of thousand of tourists flock to the town to witness the nesting and hatching of these ancient reptiles. Less than a kilometer away, separated only by a river mouth, sits Playa Norte in the southern tip of the Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge. In the shadow of Tortuguero but afforded little of its attention or protection, both legislatively and actually, Playa Norte has long been viewed as a municipal beach as opposed to its restricted neighbor, with consumptive use of its natural resources, including the marine turtles. We present the current incarnation of the monitoring and conservation efforts and practices taking place on Playa Norte and the surrounding area, during the years 2007 – 2009. We will discuss the results of our work with the turtles of Playa Norte over the years, their numbers, the year-on-year decrease of nest poaching, hatchling success rates and more, and discuss the management techniques employed and challenges faced that have led to dramatically improving the situation for the turtles and the awareness of the plight on Playa Norte. We will also discuss the community work and the role that ecotourism can play in the future directions of the program.

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