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Signs of hope in the eastern Pacific: international collaboration reveals encouraging status for a severely depleted population of hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata

  • Alexander R. Gaos (a1), F.A. Abreu-Grobois (a2), J. Alfaro-Shigueto (a3), D. Amorocho (a4), R. Arauz (a5), A. Baquero (a6), R. Briseño (a2), D. Chacón (a7), C. Dueñas (a8), C. Hasbún (a9), M. Liles (a10), G. Mariona (a10), C. Muccio (a11), J.P. Muñoz (a6), W.J. Nichols (a12), M. Peña (a6), J.A. Seminoff (a13), M. Vásquez (a14), J. Urteaga (a15), B. Wallace (a16), I.L. Yañez (a17) and P. Zárate (a18)...

While little is known about hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata in the eastern Pacific Ocean, available information suggests that the population has declined substantially in recent decades and could be near extirpation in the region. To evaluate the current status of the population more effectively and to determine the feasibility of recovery efforts, a workshop of regional marine turtle specialists was held in June 2008 in Los Cóbanos, El Salvador. An international working group, Iniciativa Carey del Pacífico Oriental (ICAPO; Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative in English), was established to consolidate information, promote conservation projects and raise awareness about the species. We present information derived from the workshop and compiled by the ICAPO working group since that time. Considering only records from 1 January 2007 to 31 May 2009 it appears that El Salvador hosts the majority of known hawksbill turtle nesting activity in the eastern Pacific, with 79.6% (n = 430) of all nesting observation records, and Mexico hosts the majority of records of hawksbill turtles at sea, with 60.3% (n = 44) of all in-water observation records. Although current abundance is very low, the pervasiveness of the species in the region suggests potential for conservation and recovery. Despite a historical paucity of research focusing on this population, the relatively large and steadily increasing number of records as a result of concerted efforts demonstrates the viability of the ICAPO network as an instrument to promote conservation of this species in the eastern Pacific.

Corresponding author
The Ocean Foundation, Washington, USA, and San Diego State University, Department of Biology, 3193 B Street, San Diego, California 92102, USA. E-mail info@hawksbill
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Also at: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador

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