New Marine Protected Area provides safe haven for turtles in Uruguay

A new Marine Protected Area (MPA) has been officially designated at Cerro Verde in Uruguay, following years of research and lobbying by national NGO Karumbé and other local organisations. The site is an important habitat for juvenile green turtles and is also important for whales, dolphins and breeding seabirds. Arriving from as far off as the coast of Africa, the green turtles are at a vulnerable stage of their lives and use this safe haven to forage and develop before heading off into the open ocean.

Since 2001, Karumbé’s work has been funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), an initiative identifying outstanding practical conservation projects, providing grants, training and support to help local conservationists to save globally threatened species. “Thanks to the support of the CLP and other collaborators over a long period, we have managed to achieve our main objective. Cerro Verde is today protected by law,” says Alejandro Fallabrino, Director and researcher at Karumbé.

Cerro Verde, Uruguay

MPA designation does not mean that the Karumbé’s job is over. They will continue to work closely with fisher groups to monitor levels of fishing and bycatch and will conduct ongoing scientific research to monitor the movement and behaviour of turtles.

In winter, part of the green turtle population migrates to warmer waters off the coast of Brazil with the rest remaining. “When the water temperature cools to 12 degrees, the turtles’ metabolism drops and they probably remain in underwater caves around Cerro Verde,” explains Alejandro. “We think this is the case because when the water warms again in November we see turtles with mussels on their carapaces. We’ve still got to study this hibernating population which means scuba-diving in winter when the water is very cold!”

Stuart Paterson, CLP’s Programme Manager, based at Fauna & Flora International, added, “This successful outcome has been a result of the long-term commitment of Uruguayan conservationists who have worked with great dedication, combining scientific research, environmental education, problem solving and political lobbying. After ten years of CLP support, we’re delighted that the Karumbé team has managed to achieve its principal goal in ensuring the protection of this important area of coastline.”

The Conservation Leadership Programme is a partnership of Fauna & Flora International, BirdLife International, Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

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