2015 - 2017 News
March 2017

IAC presented the Eastern Pacific Leatherback turtle’s critical status at CBD Sustainable Ocean Initiative workshop

At the Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) Capacity-Building Workshop for the Wider Caribbean, and Central America, carried out on February 20 – 24, 2017 in San José, Costa Rica, the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) Consultative Committee of Experts delegate from Costa Rica, and Manager of the Leatherback National Park Mr. Rotney Piedra, gave a presentation on the IAC regional efforts on behalf of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback turtle. This population is critically endangered.

The Sustainable Ocean Initiative (SOI) is a global platform that aims to build partnerships and enhance capacity to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in marine and coastal areas. Therefore, the workshop organized by the CBD Secretariat and Costa Rica´s Ministry of Environment and Energy aimed to enhance the capacity of countries in the region to conserve and sustainably use marine and coastal biodiversity. The workshop focused on regional experiences and approaches supporting integrated marine and coastal management.

In the presentation titled “Regional Conservation Efforts of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Turtle”, Mr. Piedra stated the critical situation of this population. The information available shows that this is a highly migratory species with a defined connectivity path between nesting habitats and foraging areas in the high seas. Mr. Piedra highlighted that the information provided by Ms. Laura Sarti, from Mexico National Commission for Natural Protected Areas (CONANP in Spanish), shows a declining number of females in Mexico´s index beaches, information that is consistent with a similar scenario in Costa Rica.

The IAC is implementing Resolution CIT-COP7-2015-R2 Conservation of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Turtle. Five strategic actions have been recommended as a priority to be implemented, such as bycatch reduction in fisheries; identification of areas of high interaction with fisheries; protect important areas for leatherback survival; eliminate any consumption and illegal use of the leatherback turtle, and protection of nesting sites. Recently the IAC recommended organizing national workshops in the range countries to agree and prioritize threat mitigation measures, the recommendations from those workshops will be presented to decision makers to be implemented. Similarly to the IAC, the regional network LaudOPO shares the commitment to promote the conservation of the Eastern Pacific Leatherbacks.

Regarding local efforts, Costa Rica carries out monitoring and research programs at index beaches as well as in secondary beaches, led by NGOs, universities, civil society and SINAC. Recently, Costa Rica drafted the Protocol for Environmental Monitoring of Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches. In addition, the capacity building activity “Best Practices and Techniques to increase survival of sea turtles incidentally caught in Costa Rican fisheries” was carried out in 2016, with the IAC support. Currently, Costa Rica is in the process to create a Commission for the Conservation and Protection of Sea Turtles, and two expert’s workshops about the situation of the species in Costa Rica have been conducted.

It is urgent to change the current status of the leatherback turtle; this depends not only on the national efforts of each country but also on regional efforts. The strengthening of partnerships between the IAC and other conventions or initiatives such as the CBD-SOI is necessary and critical.


March 2017

Tenth Meeting of the IAC Consultative Committee of Experts

The 10th meeting of the IAC Consultative Committee of Experts (CCE) was held on February 15, 2017, by videoconference from the IAC Secretariat Pro Tempore office at the US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters in Virginia. The meeting was attended by delegates from eleven (11) Member Countries and four (4) sectorial members representing NGOs, Scientific, and Private Industry. Using video conference allowed the participation of 35 delegates from the IAC region. This has been the Consultative Committee meeting with the highest attendance to date.

The CCE Work Plan 2017-2018 was updated, and the recommendations from the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Task Force regarding the critical status of the species were revised and approved. These recommendations will be presented for consideration to the IAC Conference of the Parties this year. The recommendations include urgent conservation actions that countries within the range of distribution of the species could implement to mitigate the threats that they face, among them is to convene national workshops with decision makers in each country to discuss and agree on measures to implement locally to help reduce the threats. Also, progress in the implementation of the Resolution on exceptions in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama was discussed, and the recommendations from the IAC Scientific Committee for the monitoring of the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) population in Central America, considering that the exception applies exclusively to this species. Finally, the Committee discussed the drafting of a technical document on sea turtles foraging areas in the IAC region; the collection of data on climate change and sea turtles in the IAC; and made recommendations on potential activities to be carried out within the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed between the IAC and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP).

At the closing remarks, the Consultative Committee honored the memory of two of its members, Mr. Les Hudson (UAS), member of the Industry Sector, and Mr. Isaias Majil, Belize´s Focal Point, who passed away in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The IAC family will remember and miss them dearly for their valuable contribution and dedicated effort on behalf of sea turtle conservation.


February 2017

The IAC promoted an exciting exchange of experiences between Peruvian fishermen and different stakeholders involved in the conservation of the eastern pacific leatherback turtle at index nesting beaches in Oaxaca, Mexico.

On Sunday, 22 January Peruvian fishermen José Fiestas, Martín Macedas, Orlando Carrillo and Pedro Alejos arrived in Mexico with the representative of Peru´s Sea Institute (IMARPE in Spanish) and IAC Scientific Committee delegate of Peru, Mr. Javier Quiñones, to have a unique experience with leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) at the index nesting beach Barra de la Cruz (State of Oaxaca). The fishermen come from different areas of Peru where there are reports of interactions of drifting gillnets with the leatherbacks foraging in these waters, which can result in incidental catches of the animals. The criteria to select the fishermen was: 1) Fishermen using gillnets, which seem to have a higher interaction with sea turtles, 2) fishing in areas with the highest abundance of leatherbacks in Peruvian waters, and 3) leadership of the candidates in their community to ensure that the experience and knowledge brought from nesting beaches would be replicated and shared with their communities. The activity took place in January 22 – 27, 2017 as part of the project “Capacity building for fishermen to create awareness and promote conservation of East Pacific leatherback turtles”, promoted by the IAC to support the implementation of the Resolution on the conservation of the eastern pacific leatherback turtle.

With the guidance of the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP in Spanish) representatives Dr. Laura Sarti, the field technician Alejandro Tavera, and their sea turtle conservation and monitoring team based in Barra de la Cruz, the fishermen conducted nocturnal monitoring and patrolling in the nesting beach. When the group arrived, CONANP´s staff gave them talks on leatherbacks biology, migration, the critical size of the population, the connectivity between Peru and Mexico, and the importance of the species protection in Peru´s feeding grounds. The first night, the group was amazed when watching an approximately 145 cm leatherback turtle nesting, and took part in the eggs relocation at the hatchery. The following morning, they had the opportunity to release olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings and a leatherback. Excited, the group had the opportunity to observe other nesting leatherbacks during the four nights of monitoring, as well as a hatching nest and took part in the hatchlings release.

The Peruvian fishermen also visited the Mexican Turtle Center (CMT in Spanish) at Mazunte, where Dr. Heriberto Santana from the National Fisheries Institute in Mexico (INAPESCA in Spanish) and delegate of Mexico for the IAC Scientific Committee, trained them on Good Practices to handle Sea Turtles incidentally caught. The fishermen also shared time with their fellow Mexican artisanal fishers such as Mr. Sanson Audelo and his son, who spoke about their experience with circular hooks and described the fishing system in their area of Puerto Angel. It was a very friendly interaction between fishermen from both countries, and the moment allowed them to talk about the sea turtle release techniques used in each of their home countries. Peruvian fishermen were impressed with the eco-friendly engines used by artisanal fishermen in the port of Puerto Angel (Oaxaca).

The activity included a visit to the area of La Escobilla, the world´s most important nesting beach for olive ridleys (L. olivacea) and where massive arrivals of between 800,000 and 1´000´000 individuals are recorded. There, Ms. Tere Luna and Ms. Erika Peralta from CONANP explained how the process of the local community from being sea turtle eggs poachers to become guardians of the sea turtles had occurred. There was great empathy between the members of the community and the Peruvian fishermen.

At the end of the visit, the fishermen returned to Peru completely moved by the experience and expressed their commitment to share with their communities back home their new knowledge on the importance of their role in the survival of the leatherbacks.

This activity was organized by the IAC Secretariat PT with the financial support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Marine Turtle Conservation Fund through the project “Capacity building for fishermen to create awareness and promote conservation of East Pacific leatherback turtles”. The implementation of the activity also had financial and technical support from the National Commission for Natural Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP), the National Fisheries Institute of Mexico (INAPESCA) and Peru´s Sea Institute (IMARPE).

© Javier Quiñones - Scientific Committee IAC © Javier Quiñones - Scientific Committee IAC

November 2016

Guatemala reinforces sea turtles hatcheries management.

A new activity to strengthen capacities of member countries of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC), took place on November 29-30, 2016 in Guatemala. The workshops “Developing Technical Capacities for the Management of Sea Turtle Hatcheries in Guatemala” were sponsored by the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the IAC and the non-governmental organization ARCAS.

The first workshop (November 29th) took place at the Pacific Navy Force Command, with the participation of 25 representatives of 12 hatcheries from San Jose Port community. Activities during the workshop included visiting the hatcheries of the Navy Command (CONAPAC) and Monterrico, managed by the Conservation Studies Center (CECON). The second workshop (November 30th) took place at the community Las Lisas; there were 16 participants representatives of six hatcheries from this community. Participants visited “Las Lisas” hatchery, managed by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Agency DIPESCA/MAGA.

The workshop trainer Mr. Didiher Chacón, delegate of the IAC Scientific Committee provided information about sea turtle biology and threats, hatcheries construction and management, sand quality, egg incubation temperature, hatchling release, nests exhumation and data gathering for monitoring. During the Q&A session participants clarify their questions on local issues on management and administration of their hatcheries. The workshops meet our objective of strengthening the capacities of those in charge of sea turtle hatcheries for the specie olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) in Guatemala, and helped the implementation of the IAC Exceptions Resolution.

© Verónica Caceres - IAC © Verónica Caceres - IAC

October 2016


The “Workshop on Sea Turtle Stranding, First aid, and Necropsy” took place from 25th to 26th of August, 2016 at Belize Fisheries Department headquarters in Belize City. The workshop was organized by the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) Secretariat Pro Tempore jointly with the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development of the Government of Belize. The workshop is one of the capacity building activities promoted by the IAC in response to the needs of the member countries. The workshop lectures were taught by DMV Brian Stacy (NOAA) and DMV Diego Albareda (Buenos Aires Ecopark and Chair of the IAC Scientific Committee).

During day one of the workshop, participants learned the basic principles of stranding and mortality investigation; the pathology and common parasites of sea turtles; postmortem examination and human interaction. During the necropsy lab, the participants were trained in the techniques to perform a necropsy in field conditions, and how to collect tissue samples. Necropsies were conducted on sea turtles found stranded in the months prior to the workshop. On day two, the workshop focused on first aid and basic care techniques of stranded sea turtles by field responders, initial evaluation, diagnosis, therapeutics, and sedation.

The 21 participants at the workshop included veterinarians, biologists and technicians working in the Marine Protected Areas for the Belize Government throughout the country and local NGOs. Each participant received a basic necropsy kit with instruments that they will use in the field.

© Verónica Caceres - IAC © Verónica Caceres - IAC

October 2016

California Leatherback Day Celebration.

On October 6th, the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) Secretary Pro Tempore, and members of the IAC Scientific Committee participated in California Leatherback Day event that took place at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.

The Leatherback turtle travels 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to feed on jellyfish in the United States west coast. Thespecies is critically endangered due to incidental catches; direct takes; coastal development that destroys nesting beaches; pollution that causes pathogens; and climate change. The Leatherback has been designated as California´s Official State Marine Reptile since 2012. This designation urges public schools to include the species in their curriculum, as well as the state and federal agencies to implement proactive conservation measures to prevent the threats to this species.

To raise awareness and bring attention to the conservation of leatherbacks, Dr. Peter Dutton (NOAA), and his team organized talks and videos on NOAA´s national and international research, and a discussion panel including outreach and education, mitigation measures in fisheries interactions and the role of consumers and culinary community in marine conservation. Students, educators, fisheries sector representatives, NGOs, local artists and scientists attended the event. Participants received information about conservation efforts at Indonesia nesting beaches, which is where the leatherbacks that visit USA waters come from; main threats, population status and challenges of transboundary species bycatch mitigation.

A productive exchange of ideas between fisheries sector, researchers and the civil society conservationists took place highlighting the conservation efforts that each sector carries out in benefit of the leatherback turtle.

© Verónica Caceres - IAC

September 2016

Thirteenth IAC Scientific Committee Meeting.

The Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles Scientific Committee 13th meeting (SC13), took place between August 29th and September 1st, 2016, in Belize City, with the support of Belize Fisheries Department, with the coordination of Lic. Isaias Majil (Belize Focal Point), and Licda. Kirah Forman.

The meeting included the participation of 22 delegates from 13 countries, who discussed the progress of 2016 work plan, and updated the 2017-2018 work plan for the committee, including sea turtles interactions with fisheries, stranding, climate change, and exceptions. The committee discussed the information presented by Honduras concerning the legal, social, economic, and technical data conditions of Lepidochelys olivacea eggs harvest in Golfo de Fonseca, and provided recommendations to increase the data available on this nesting population. The IAC Foraging Areas Working Group was formed, and the contributions of the CC13 to the draft of the document “Status of Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta caretta) within Nations of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles” were included. The technical document and recommendations on the “Characterization of Sea Turtle Stranding Information in the IAC Region” were approved. In the last day, the committee delegates took part in a beach cleaning activity at the nesting index beach Baccalar Chico, severely affected by hurricane Earl when passing through Belize.

Dr. Diego Albareda (Argentina) was elected as Chair of the Scientific Committee and Lic. Francisco Ponce (Chile) as Vice-chair.

© Luz Helena Rodríguez - IAC © Luz Helena Rodríguez - IAC

April 2016

Ninth Meeting of the IAC Consultative Committee of Experts.

The 9th meeting of the IAC Consultative Committee of Experts (CCE) was held on April 19th 2016 by videoconference from the IAC Pro Tempore Secretariat office at the US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters in Virginia. The meeting was attended by delegates from (10) ten Member Countries, seven (7) sectorial members representing NGO, Scientific, and Private Industry, and the Chair of the IAC Scientific Committee. With participation of 25 delegates this was the meeting with the highest attendance to date. This was made possible by using video conferencing as work tool that has facilitated the attendance of delegates from different agencies within the Member countries.

At the meeting the CCE Work Plan 2016-2017 was updated, and there was a discussion on the IAC Scientific Committee recommendations for the collection and report of information on Climate Change and Sea Turtles, as well as on the implementation of the IAC recommendations on exceptions for Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica. The activities of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Task Force were discussed and new tasks for this group were agreed regarding the identification of immediate strategies to reduce the threats that are causing the decline of this population, and the need of a more detailed examination regarding the compliance of the Resolution for the conservation of this species in the Member Countries. Finally, the NGO sector proposal to create a mechanism for NGOs to submit cases /petitions regarding activities that are a potential threat to sea turtle survival or the conservation of their habitats was discussed. During the meeting the IAC Secretary PT reminded participants that the nomination process for sectorial members to this committee will begin no later than January 2017, therefore those who are interested are welcomed to send their nominations. Sectorial members will be appointed at COP8 in 2017.

The current Chair of the Consultative Committee of Experts Mr. Paul Hoetjes (Caribbean Netherlands) as well as the Vice-Chair Mr. Joao Thomé (Brazil) were re-elected to continue leading the CCE for the next two years. The next CCE10 meeting will be held on March 2017.

July 2015

The Seventh Meeting of the IAC Conference of the Parties (COP7) was held in Mexico City, from 24 to 26 of June, 2015.

The meeting was attended by delegates from 11 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, United States, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Caribbean Netherlands, Peru and Uruguay), and accredited observers from local and international NGOs.

Three important resolutions were approved that deal with the conservation of the Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle, conservation of the loggerhead turtle and the exception presented by Costa Rica under Article IV (3a and 3b) for subsistence harvesting of Lepidochelys olivacea eggs.

Argentina was elected the next COP Chair and Brazil Vice -chair. The next Conference of the Parties (COP8) will be held in Argentina in 2017.

COP7 was sponsored by the Government of Mexico through the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund – USFWS.

Group photo 7th IAC Conference of the Parties © Carlos Salas

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