The Central American Eastern Pacific coast may have some of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles in the world. In several countries, such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, massive nestings of olive ridley sea turtles occur. Unfortunately, with the exception of Costa Rica, management plans developed for these beaches promote the short-term needs of the people, rather than more integrated conservation programs which balance the ecological needs of the sea turtles with economic needs of local communities. Studies in Costa Rica have shown that it is possible, under certain circumstances, to reach a balance between the needs of the people and the conservation of sea turtles.
Many hands-on programs demonstrate that sea turtle protection benefits local communities and sea turtles. For example, Ostional, Costa Rica, is a prime model of sustainable development, where the community benefits from a healthy sea turtle population through a sustainable egg harvesting program. Data suggests that harvesting some of the nests can, by reducing spoilage and the spread of bacteria, increase the total hatching success. The Ostional community is allowed to harvest a permitted number of eggs, in exchange for patrolling and protecting the beach from poachers. This community understands that turtle eggs can provide a long-term source of food and income for their families, and is aligned with environmentalists to protect sea turtles from additional threats.
Eco-tourism has become an important source of alternative revenue for some sea turtle communities. An infamous slaughterhouse in Mexico (where 50,000 turtles a year were slaughtered so their skin could be made into purses and shoes in Japan) was transformed into a sea turtle museum. At Punta Banco, Costa Rica, ecotourist income contributes to the operation of a community-run hatchery program.