NEW YORK (July 26, 2005) -- Sea turtles that receive the highestprotection in Costa Rica and other neighboring countries are dying bythe thousands at the hands of unregulated - and unsustainable -commercial fishing in Nicaragua, according to a study by the Bronx Zoobased Wildlife Conservation Society.
The study, appearing in the latest issue of the journalHerpetologica, found that turtles tagged in Nicaragua have only littlemore than a 50 percent chance of surviving until the next year. Thisincludes adult turtles from Tortuguero, a world famous turtle-nestingbeach in Costa Rica. For a slow-growing, slow-to-mature species,removing so many large juveniles and adults from the population spellspotential disaster, according to WCS scientists. The largest remaininggreen turtle population in the Atlantic lives in this region,scientists believe.
"Green turtles cannot take this relentless pounding by theNicaraguan sea turtle fishing industry," said WCS researcher CathiCampbell, the lead author of the study. "Drastic reductions are neededin fishing levels, or both the turtles - and turtle fishers - willvanish within a matter of years."
Although protected from international trade by CITES - theConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an estimated11,000 green sea turtles are still harvested annually in Nicaragua forlocal consumption. WCS says that an annual quota of between 1,000-3,000turtles needs to be established to sustain the fishery.
Green turtles - the only herbivorous sea turtle species -travel from throughout the Caribbean to Nicaragua to forage in its richsea grass beds, making it especially frustrating for neighboringcountries that protect turtles in their own waters, only to lose themonce they enter Nicaragua, according to WCS.
"Other countries are doing so much to protect nestingpopulations and in-water aggregations of green turtles," Campbell said,noting that Costa Rica in particular has worked hard to protect nestingturtles from poachers. "Nicaragua plainly needs to do more to protectwhat is an international resource."
For the past seven years, WCS has worked along Nicaragua'sMiskito Coast to establish conservation programs that safeguard green,hawksbill and loggerhead turtles. WCS also operates turtle conservationprograms in Africa.
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