Living on the Edge: Hawksbill turtle nesting and conservation along the Eastern Pacific Rim
Prior to 2007, efforts to monitor and conserve hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) in the eastern Pacific Ocean were opportunistic and records were virtually non-existent. The first abundance estimates were published in 2010, but contained limited data on the species. Ongoing research since that time has led to the identification of several rookeries, including sites containing large proportions of the overall hawksbill nesting currently known to occur in the region. Monitoring projects were established at several sites and have since provided substantial nesting data on the species. Here we summarize data collected between 1983 and March 2016 from all sites (n = 9) confirmed to host >10 nests in any given season to provide an update on hawksbill nesting in the eastern Pacific. We documented a total of 3,508 hawksbill nests, 265,024 hatchlings and 528 individual nesting females in the region. The vast majority of these records (99.4%, 99.9% and 99.6%, respectively) were generated subsequent to 2007, coinciding with the discovery of eight of the nine rookeries included in this study and the organization of monitoring efforts at those sites, which led to the increased documentation conferred here. Our findings should not be misconstrued as increases in actual nesting or signs of recovery, which could diminish the ongoing need for conservation actions, but rather as optimism, that there is still an opportunity to restore the species in the eastern Pacific. The top three sites in terms of average annual number of nests were Estero Padre Ramos (Nicaragua; 213.2 ± 47.6 nests), Bahia de Jiquilisco (El Salvador; 168.5 ± 46.7 nests) and Aserradores (Nicaragua; 100.0 ± 24.0 nests), and all three sites are located in mangrove estuaries in Central America, highlighting the importance of these rookeries/habitats for the survival and recovery of hawksbills in the region. The remaining six sites received between 6.9 ± 7.3 nests (Costa Careyes, Mexico) and 59.3 ± 17.7 nests (Los Cobanos, El Salvador) annually. By integrating data collected on nesting hawksbills with local conservation realities at the most important known hawksbill rookeries in the eastern Pacific, we provide a more holistic view of the conservation status and management needs of the species in this ocean region.
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Gaos et al. 2017_Living on the edge