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Signs of hope in the eastern Pacific: international collaboration reveals encouraging status for a severely depleted population of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata

Alexander R. Gaosa1 c1, F.A. Abreu-Groboisa2, J. Alfaro-Shiguetoa3, D. Amorochoa4, R. Arauza5, A. Baqueroa6 p1, R. Briseñoa2, D. Chacóna7, C. Dueñasa8, C. Hasbúna9, M. Lilesa10, G. Marionaa10, C. Muccioa11, J.P. Muñoza6, W.J. Nicholsa12, M. Peñaa6, J.A. Seminoffa13, M. Vásqueza14, J. Urteagaa15, B. Wallacea16, I.L. Yañeza17 and P. Záratea18

a1 The Ocean Foundation, Washington, USA, and San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 3193 B Street, San Diego, California 92102, USA

a2 Laboratorio de Genética y Banco de Información sobre Tortugas Marinas, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, UNAM, Mazatlán, México

a3 ProDelphinus, Lima, Peru, and University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

a4 Centro de Investigación para el Manejo Ambiental y el Desarrollo, Cali, Colombia

a5 Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas, Tibás, San José, Costa Rica

a6 Fundación Equilibrio Azul, Quito, Ecuador

a7 WIDECAST-Latin America, Tibás, San José, Costa Rica

a8 Ministerio del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, San Salvador, El Salvador

a9 USAID, Santa Elena, La Libertad, El Salvador

a10 Fundación Zoológica de El Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador

a11 Asociación de Rescate y Conservación de Vida Silvestre, San Lucas Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

a12 California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA

a13 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, San Diego, USA

a14 Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología de la Universidad de El Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador

a15 Fauna & Flora International, Managua, Nicaragua

a16 Conservation International, Global Marine Division, Arlington, USA

a17 Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias, A.C., La Paz, Mexico, and The Ocean Foundation, Washington, DC, USA

a18 Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA, and Charles Darwin Foundation, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Abstract

While little is known about hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata in the eastern Pacific Ocean, available information suggests that the population has declined substantially in recent decades and could be near extirpation in the region. To evaluate the current status of the population more effectively and to determine the feasibility of recovery efforts, a workshop of regional marine turtle specialists was held in June 2008 in Los Cóbanos, El Salvador. An international working group, Iniciativa Carey del Pacífico Oriental (ICAPO; Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative in English), was established to consolidate information, promote conservation projects and raise awareness about the species. We present information derived from the workshop and compiled by the ICAPO working group since that time. Considering only records from 1 January 2007 to 31 May 2009 it appears that El Salvador hosts the majority of known hawksbill turtle nesting activity in the eastern Pacific, with 79.6% (n = 430) of all nesting observation records, and Mexico hosts the majority of records of hawksbill turtles at sea, with 60.3% (n = 44) of all in-water observation records. Although current abundance is very low, the pervasiveness of the species in the region suggests potential for conservation and recovery. Despite a historical paucity of research focusing on this population, the relatively large and steadily increasing number of records as a result of concerted efforts demonstrates the viability of the ICAPO network as an instrument to promote conservation of this species in the eastern Pacific.

(Received September 11 2009)

(Reviewed November 30 2009)

(Accepted January 22 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 The Ocean Foundation, Washington, USA, and San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 3193 B Street, San Diego, California 92102, USA. E-mail info@hawksbill

p1 Also at: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

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