Nicaragua hosts globally important populations of five marine turtle species, all of which are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List, and hosts two of just nine mass nesting arribada beaches worldwide. However, illegal harvesting of eggs and killing of hawksbills for their shells has presented a serious threat to nesting leatherback, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast. Turtles are also affected by commercial and artisanal fishing, through becoming tangled in gill nets or injured (often fatally) by destructive and illegal blast fishing practices.

FFI has been working to help increase the populations of marine turtle species along the Pacific coast, concentrating our efforts around protecting nesting beaches at five key sites. FFI works in collaboration with coastal communities and local governments to conduct beach patrols throughout the nesting season, build and manage turtle hatcheries, train community patrol teams in monitoring techniques for data collection, and catalyse local and national support for these marine reptiles through turtle festivals, education and awareness campaigns.

Our conservation efforts are now protecting over 50% of the known population of hawksbill turtles in the entire eastern Pacific Ocean, as well as increasing leatherback nesting and hatchling success for the first time in decades. We have made significant progress in halting poaching and increasing support for turtles in Nicaragua, providing new hope of recovery for both these critically endangered populations.

FFI also works closely with partners studying and conserving leatherback and hawksbill turtles throughout the eastern Pacific seaboard of the Americas. We are helping regional collaborators to collate and share data on turtle ecology and nesting numbers, providing a mechanism for tracking the status and progress of conservation of both hawksbills and leatherbacks.

Marine turtles are long-lived creatures, so while we are able to measurably reduce the threats to these species in the short term, changes in overall population numbers are unlikely to be seen for over 30 years, when the turtles we are protecting today are mature enough to return to nest on the beaches where they were born.

We are grateful for financial support from the UK government’s Darwin Initiative, the UK government’s IWT Challenge Fund, the Species Fund, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the US Fish & Wildlife Service Marine Turtle Conservation Fund, the Taurus Foundation, SEE Turtles (Billion Baby Turtles Fund), the Marisla Foundation, the Ocean Foundation and Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing & Peter Baldwin.

Interested in visiting the land of lakes and volcanoes, seeing sea turtles and meeting project staff in person? Visit our travel page for more details.