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left arrowPrevious Newsletter No. 39, December 22, 2002 Nextright arrow.

Hola Volunteers and Supporters –

Of the 330 nest recorded this nesting season, 81% had been placed in our nursery, 14% were relocated to better areas along the beach, 4% were illegally taken, and 1% washed out by heavy surf. Despite the rough and cold move shortly before Hurricane Kenna, the last 110 nests (later moved to a temporary nursery) maintained a survival rate of 84.4%. Through it all, the yield for this season ended up at 22,259 hatchlings released and/or protected. The temporary nursery placed in my front yard turned out to be a better location then the original beach location, as it produced overall night temperatures averaging 15° warmer, which in turned produced a higher than expected survival rate.

On December 19th, a combination of high tides, and large waves driven by storms from the North, delivered waves to the doorsteps of some coastal residents, The problem began when the force of Kenna lifted tons of sand and deposited well behind the beach. Later, waves from northern storms pushed the sand southward filling low areas. This in turn caused the width of the beach to narrow, thus flooding yards, and unfortunately most of the thirty-one nests collected and moved to a better area after Kenna. These nests are due to hatch between December 24th and January 24th. If the width of the beach continues to narrow, this phenomenon could create a serious problem for nesting turtles this coming season.

For centuries inhabitants of the coastal pueblos gathered food from the seemingly endless supply of marine turtles and their eggs. By the 1980’s pressures from coastal development, poaching, shrimp fishing, and tourism reduced a population of thousands of nesting turtles along the beaches of San Pancho to less than two hundred. On the beach the nests fared no better; skilled poachers combed them nightly, and what few nests remained faced the prospect of being washed out by beach erosion or destroyed within by parasites. Hatchlings that made it to the surface meet hungry dogs and an army of ghost grabs on their way to the sea. When we started our program in the early 1990’s, hardly anyone in San Pancho had ever seen a hatchling and people were astonished to see what came out of that egg.

Our decision to move or relocate nests for their protection this coming season is in some ways a return to the late 1980’s, but by no means an original ideal. In the late 80’s a contractor by the name of Richard Broussard did just that. While walking the beaches at night he would often come across young men with a bag or two of eggs. He would trade the bags for pesos, and when alone, he would return the nests to the beach. Sounds easy, but its not so easy; problems are more complex today. Coastal development and tourism challenge the very existence of the marine turtle and our ability to make this plan work.

Have a wonderful holiday, and a prosperous, peaceful New Year.

Frank D. Smith
Grupo Ecológico de al Costa Verde, A.C.

San Pancho, taken from the south in 1991

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