The Nicaraguan Pacific is of global importance for marine turtles. Since 2002, FFI has secured community-led protection of nesting hawksbills and leatherbacks, whilst working to reduce threats to turtles from illegal trade and unintended interactions with fisheries. We are also helping coastal communities to benefit as custodians of Nicaragua’s marine ecosystems.
In the Eastern Pacific Ocean, populations of critically endangered hawksbill and leatherback turtles have collapsed by over 90% over the last three generations. Throughout the region, illegal poaching of turtle eggs is estimated to be near 100% at sites where conservation activities are not carried out. Incidental capture of turtles in fisheries, especially gillnets and longlines, is another significant driver of population decline. Habitat degradation, climate change and bycatch from international industrial fisheries in the high seas also threaten turtles’ future and pose obstacles to recovery.
Extending over 400 kilometres, the Pacific coast of Nicaragua hosts over 55km of globally important nesting beaches for critically endangered leatherback and hawksbill turtles, as well as two olive ridley mass nesting beaches. It encompasses a diverse mix of mangrove, estuarine and marine ecosystems, whose rich biodiversity supports artisanal fishing and tourism which are vital for local livelihoods.
FFI has been working in Nicaragua since 2002 to address direct threats to turtles, including illegal harvesting and trade in eggs and hawksbill shell and unsustainable levels of bycatch, and indirect threats, including limited sustainable livelihood options for communities, illegal and destructive fishing practices, and local capacity constraints.
We aim to ensure that marine turtle populations in the Nicaraguan Pacific are recovering, and priority marine habitats have increased biodiversity and resilience, with coastal communities benefiting as custodians of Nicaragua’s marine ecosystems.
To achieve this goal, FFI is working towards the following key outcomes over the next five years:
FFI works with a range of stakeholders – communities, authorities, NGOs, universities and enterprises – to tackle threats and build support and capacity for the conservation of turtles and their marine habitats. Central to our approach is to promote community ownership of conservation activities, including nesting beach monitoring and protection, and improve custodianship of Nicaragua’s valuable marine resources.
Over the past two decades, FFI and our local partners have reduced poaching of turtle eggs to less than 4% (from nearly 100%) and increased hatchling production across 43km of nesting habitat – successfully protecting more than 2,400 hawksbill nests and 535 leatherback nests, and releasing over 220,000 hawksbill hatchlings and over 9,000 leatherback hatchlings to the sea. We have built grassroots capacity and incentives for turtle conservation and marine resource management, whilst launching a national campaign to raise awareness and reduce demand for turtle products. In collaboration with regional partners and responding to Nicaragua’s importance for the reduction of fisheries interactions with marine turtles, we have characterized and taken actions to reduce unsustainable fishing practices and bycatch mortality.
FFI launches targeted campaign to reduce demand for turtle eggs in Nicaragua, centred on the slogan “Son Nicas”
FFI contributes to scientific knowledge of hawksbill habitat use and migration patterns, through collaboration with ICAPO on satellite tagging study
FFI expands Weaving for Nature initiative for local women to generate an income from upcycling beach plastics into marketable products to three coastal communities
FFI scales up work with local fishers and authorities to increase compliance with fisheries regulations and reduce harmful fishing practices
FFI plays a key role in the development of the Action Plan for Eastern Pacific Leatherbacks (2012) and the Action Plan for the Conservation of Hawksbill Turtles in the Gulf of Fonseca (2014), as well as the establishment of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Network (LaúdOPO)
FFI and partners identify two large, shallow mangroves estuaries in northern Nicaragua as important nesting and foraging grounds for hawksbill turtles, which are confirmed as supporting >50% of all known hawksbill nesting in the Eastern Pacific. FFI extends beach protection activities to both sites
FFI launches first national awareness campaign, centred on the slogan “I don’t eat turtle eggs”
Beach protection extended to second leatherback nesting site at Salamina
FFI facilitates participatory development of the Marine Turtle Conservation Strategy for the Nicaraguan Pacific, in collaboration with Nicaraguan authorities and multiple stakeholders
Highest recorded nesting numbers at Veracruz nesting beach, with 80 leatherback nests protected
FFI begins work in Nicaragua, including first season of leatherback protection patrols at Veracruz nesting beach (22 leatherback nests protected)
We're working with our partners around the world to save species from extinction. Like the pieces of a jigsaw, every last one of them is a vital part of the bigger picture. Together, we can help bring the world's endangered species back from the brink.
Please support our vital work today and help save our planet's irreplaceable biodiversity.
Alison Gunn, Senior Programme Manager, Central America
We are grateful for the support from:
UK government’s DEFRA Darwin Initiative
UK government’s DEFRA IWT Challenge Fund
The Species Fund
National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
US Fish & Wildlife Service (Marine Turtle Conservation Fund)
SEE Turtles (Billion Baby Turtles Fund)
The Ocean Foundation