Photo: Hawksbill sea turtle (Life-Sea)
Scientists are trying to explain the reappearance in Central America’s Gulf of Fonseca of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill sea turtle, a species that many specialists considered virtually extinct, officials said.
The turtles’ discovery is the subject of a study by the scientific committee of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, or IAC, which just wrapped up its 10th biannual meeting in Honduras, Honduran Natural Resources and Environment Secretariat director of biodiversity Rafael Amaro Garcia told Efe.
The committee visited the Gulf of Fonseca to get a firsthand look at a conservation project for Olive Ridley turtles before finishing its meeting.
The Eastern Pacific Hawksbill sea turtle was considered critically endangered until about seven years ago, with many scientists considering the species extinct.
Scientists have now discovered that the turtles are once again arriving in the Gulf of Fonseca, a large body of water in western Central America that is shared by Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“We know the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill turtle is arriving in the Gulf of Fonseca, but we do not know why, nor do we know if its life cycle has changed - if a large number stay in the gulf - or if it is due to food, nesting or even why they live here,” Garcia said.
Experts do not know if the Hawksbill’s presence in the Gulf of Fonseca is due to climate change, which is affecting other sea turtles around the world.
The IAC’s scientific committee agreed to identify the types of beaches used by the turtles to nest in the Americas so the animals can be monitored and protected over the next 10 years, Garcia said.
Scientists want to learn how many turtles there are, what affects them, why they come and go, and gender numbers so action can be taken to protect them, Garcia said.
Sea turtles face a “very complex” situation in the world and some countries in the Americas “are trying to work in a focused way” to protect them, IAC scientific committee vice president Rene Marquez told Efe.
Coastal residents in some countries use the turtles and their eggs for food, complicating efforts to protect the animals, Marquez said.
“Conservation is growing, but there is still much left to do,” Marquez said.
The Hawksbill turtle, a carnivore with a diet consisting of marine sponges, winkles, crustaceans, sea urchins, starfish, mollusks and fish, lays its eggs on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
An adult Hawksbill has a shell measuring between 71 and 91 centimeters (28 and 36 inches) and weighs between 36 and 64 kilos (79 and 141 pounds).