December 19, 2007 — This week in Global Ecology and Biogeography, encouraging news has emerged for one of the world’s largest marine herbivores, the green turtle, Chelonia mydas. A new study shows that long-term protection of the sea turtles’ nesting beaches is successful in achieving increases in the green turtle populations.
The authors of the article, who research green turtles in Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, and the United States, analyzed nesting data from six of the world’s major green turtle rookeries for which there are reliable long-term data of 25 years or more. The analysis shows that green turtle nesting on four beaches in the Pacific (Ogasawara, Japan; French Frigate Shoal, Hawaii, U.S.A.; and Heron and Raine Islands, Australia) and two beaches in the Atlantic (Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, U.S.A.; and Tortuguero, Costa Rica) have increased by an estimated four to fourteen percent each year over the past two to three decades. The increases in nesting varied considerably among the rookeries, most likely because historical and current exploitation of green turtles is different at each site.
“These results should be celebrated,” said Milani Chaloupka, lead author of the report and vice chair of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG). “They demonstrate that green turtle populations and presumably the green turtles’ ecosystem roles can be recovered in spite of drastic population declines in the past.”
Sebastian Troëng, co-author, MTSG member, and senior director of regional marine strategies at Conservation International, said, “This analysis shines a light of hope on marine conservation efforts for endangered species and for biological diversity as a whole. Ambitious strategies including long-term protection of habitats and reduction of survival threats are working, and endangered species can be recovered.”
Despite this good news, habitat encroachment and harvesting of turtles and eggs are still problems in some of the studied sites. David Godfrey, Executive Director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, which coordinates the 50-year-long green turtle conservation project in Tortuguero, commented, “In Costa Rica, the recovering green turtle population attracts millions of dollars in tourism revenue each year as tourists come to watch the turtles lay their eggs. Unfortunately, these same turtles are still hunted by the thousands when they swim to Nicaraguan waters in search of feeding grounds. Meanwhile, inappropriate development on Florida nesting beaches threatens the viability of this important habitat. Clearly, despite the good news, and it is very good news, conservation efforts must continue.”
The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website atwww.conserveturtles.org or call (800) 678-7853.