Critical Nesting Beaches in Costa Rica
Ostional, Costa Rica The sustainable egg harvesting program at Ostional, Costa Rica, managed by ADIO, the Ostional Community Development Association, has been described as one of the best examples of community-based sustainable development in the tropics. The harvest of sea turtle eggs at Ostional is the only legal egg harvest allowed in Costa Rica.
Every year, up to 100,000 turtles arrive nearly simultaneously at Ostional to lay eggs on a short stretch of beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Natural egg mortality is extremely high as subsequent waves of nesting turtles accidentally dig up and destroy eggs from previous nesters. Members of the Ostional community have been organized into a cooperative that is allowed to harvest a small percentage of eggs (an average of 11 percent) in return for providing local rangers to protect the majority of eggs. Various studies have suggested that this number of eggs can be harvested without impacting total hatching success.
The results have been astounding from a socio-economic stand point. Instead of an uncontrolled massive illegal harvest which occurred in the 1980s and earlier, today there is a controlled harvest, supported by the entire town, which has brought economic vitality to the community. When biologists first arrived to study the site in the 1980s, they were met with mistrust and even violence. Today, there is virtually 100% support from the community to protect the turtles. Revenue from the harvest also supports a Costa Rican biologist who monitors population levels. The program also assists in providing a legal source of inexpensive turtle eggs for consumption throughout Costa Rica which lowers the price and demand for illegally poached eggs from other nesting sites in the country.
Playa Grande, Costa Rica The long sandy beach north of Tamarindo at Playa Grande was once the site of thousands of nesting leatherback sea turtles. In 2011, the number of nesting females was less than 100 leatherback sea turtles. Many scientists fear this segment of the leatherback population may be wiped out entirely due to the continued worsening of conditions are at Playa Grande from the tourist development along the beach that brings light pollution, decreased sand dune habitat, and provides new roads for poachers to visit from inland cities.
Playa Grande lies in the southern end of Las Baulas National Park, a protected area set aside specifically for the leatherback sea turtles. A year-round field station is housed here, which sponsors educational events and protective beach patrols. Despite being in the national park, destructive development continues to plague Playa Grande, where the needs of wealthy developers are overpowering the conservation laws put in place.
Critical Nesting Beaches in Nicaragua
Playa La Flor, Nicaragua La Flor is Nicaragua's most important turtle nesting beach and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Located on the Pacific coast of southern Nicaragua, this half-mile stretch of pearly white sand takes its name, Beach of Flowers, from the tamarind, a tropical flowering fruit tree which lines the beach. From July to December, up to 8,000 female turtles crawl ashore at La Flor and lay their eggs in the amazing phenomenon known as the arribada.
Over the past several years, this beach has been threatened by recurring development schemes to site luxury hotels there. Additionally, there is continuing egg poaching and a lack of government funds to properly monitor the beach or development sustainable programs that meet the needs of the sea turtles and the livelihoods of the local communities.