Scientists Publish Good News for Green Turtles

12/19/2007

Long-Term Nesting Beach Protection Works

Arlington, Virginia � 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 Tro�ng, 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, hunting of turtles and poaching of eggs are still problems in some of the studied sites, including Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  David Godfrey, MTSG member and executive director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, commented, "In Tortuguero, the recovering green turtle population attracts millions of dollars in tourism revenue each year for the local community 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 seagrass, so conservation efforts must continue." 

The full study has been published online in Global Ecology and Biogeography and will be included in the print version of the journal in an upcoming issue. 

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Media Contacts:
David Godfrey
Executive Director
Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Email: david@cccturtle.org
Phone: +1 352-373-6441

Lisa M. Bailey
Marine Communications Manager
Conservation International
Email: lbailey@conservation.org
Phone: +1 703-341-2602        

Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy, and community participation to protect the Earth�s richest regions of plant and animal diversity and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents to help people find economic alternatives without harming their natural environments. For more information about CI, visit www.conservation.org.

The Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG), a Species Specialist Group within the IUCN�World Conservation Union, is a group of more than 300 experts hailing from 70 countries and representing knowledge of all the world�s major sea turtle stocks.  Its mission it is to develop and support strategies, set priorities, and provide tools that promote and guide the conservation of marine turtles and their ecological roles and habitats.  For more information about the MTSG, visit http://www.iucn-mtsg.org/.

Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), founded in 1959 by University of Florida professor Dr. Archie Carr, is the oldest sea turtle conservation group in the world. Headquartered in Gainesville, Florida, CCC conducts research, education and policy work throughout Florida and the Wider Caribbean. For more information visit www.cccturtle.org, or call (+1) 352-373-6441.

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