San Ignacio-Navachiste-Macapule, Mexico

Spearheading sea turtle and wildlife research in the San Ignacio-Navachiste-Macapule lagoon system of Sinaloa.

In the Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, there are about 900 islands, all part of the “Islands of the Gulf of California” Protected Area, which was established in 1978. The islands have been recognized worldwide for their beauty and biological richness, as well as for the productivity of surrounding waters. They were recognized as a priority conservation area in February 2005 in the book titled, “Priority Conservation Areas from Baja California to the Bering Sea” published by the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, and declared a “Heritage Site” in July 2005 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The islands are considered a natural laboratory for the study of speciation and oceanic and coastal evolution.

The largest number of islands in the Gulf of California are located within the San Ignacio-Navachiste-Macapule lagoon system, in the Municipality of Guasave, Sinaloa, where approximately 25 islands and islets host a variety of flora and fauna. The lagoon system was added to the list of “Wetlands of International Importance” by RAMSAR in February 2008. Considering their biological importance, it is important to develop studies that will allow us to better understand the area, which will assist in the development of appropriate management and facilitate for sustainable use of resources. Thus in May 2005, CIIDIR (Sinaloa UNIT) of the National Polytechnic Institute, established the ” Protection and Conservation of Wildlife Program”. The main objective is the conservation of priority flora and fauna species and their hábitats, which is achieved through community participation and the continuing search for sustainable alternatives for the people of this region. One of the primary components of this project has been to monitor and understand the use of the lagoon system for marine turtles.


  • Use tangle-nets to monitor foraging hawksbills.
  • Monitoring of coastal and marine habitats in the area.
  • Monitoring populations of sea turtles that inhabit the region.
  • Study and monitoring of wildlife diseases.
  • Rehabilitation of wildlife (following national guidelines by PROFEPA)
  • Environmental Education


  • We’ve conducted 12 research projects for the Protection and Conservation of Wildlife, which have led to 5 Master’s degrees and 4 advanced Bachelor’s degrees in subjects. This research has led to the publication of four peer-reviewed scientific articles.
  • Recognition of northern Sinaloa as an important feeding area for sea turtles.
  • Recorded presence of the 5 species of sea turtles reported for the Mexican Pacific.
  • Identification of the principal threats for sea turtles in the region.
  • Active participation by fishermen from different communities form north-central Sinaloa in program activities.
  • Implementing of an environmental education program, which includes sea turtle festivals, children and fishermen workshops, national and international conferences, and more.


Program strategies used by this project site:

In-water Monitoring

Outreach and Education

Exploratory Habitat Investigations

Protected Area Management

ICAPO’s Role with Implementing Organization

  • Communication with other organizations (information link)
  • Funding proposals
  • Technical advising (capacity-building, training, protocol/methodology development)
  • Research and publications collaboration