ARCAE begins field work in Southern Golfo Dulce

On December 10, 2011 the Costa Rican Environmental and Educational Network—ARCAE began field work for its coastal conservation project titled: Sea Turtle Activity in an Approved Aquaculture Site, Mouth of the Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica.  Organization members performed an initial visual survey of the project site aboard a local artisanal fishing boat while GPS logging the positions of all observed marine fauna therein.  In addition to the on-the-water observations, the research team is performing nightly beach patrols and has to date GPS located 3 aborted endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting sites and 1 successful critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting event along the area’s beaches. 

Because there is little information regarding green and hawksbill turtles for this part of Costa Rica, the ARCAE team will use the data to construct a series of maps that illustrate the occurrence of these two species of reptiles (in addition to other observed marine species) during Costa Rica’s dry season (December-April) in and around an approved yellow fin tuna aquaculture site.

Commercial tuna aquaculture threatens populations of endangered sea turtles, conflicts with Costa Rica’s commitment to protecting turtle populations, and has the local eco-tourism and artisanal fishing sectors concerned over its possible effects on the economy.  For this reason, it is the project team’s goal to contribute to the responsible management of the area’s marine resources by divulging the results of this study.

A female olive ridley sea turtle observed on December 10, 2011

UPDATE:
Thankfully, governmental approval for the tuna farm was officially terminated by the Costa Rican Environmental Secretariat (SETENA) on 7 November 2011.  While the announcement came as a relief to many interested parties, including all members of the sea turtle visual survey project, it is widely accepted that recent free trade agreements with China (August, 2011) will provide an economic catalyst for future aquaculture projects as the Asian nation is the world’s leading consumer of fish and other marine products. China’s seafood imports from Costa Rica increased 20% in 2010 and its trade agreements with Costa Rica allow for the purchase of Costa Rican farm raised tuna.

By undertaking the visual survey, the organization hopes to contribute to the local initiative to establish stronger coastal policies and management plans that promote local economic development while protecting local populations of marine fauna.  Another important project component will be a series of educational programs that increase school childrens’ knowledge and understanding of the area’s marine ecosystem.

If you would like more information on ARCAE and how you can contribute to this project’s success, please contact Andy Bystrom at a.bystrom@arcae.org

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