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Created by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

In 2012, with support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, more than thirty regional and international experts came together to develop a plan to stabilize and recover East Pacific leatherback turtle populations within ten years. The plan sets realistic but ambitious population goals, defines key activities to address major threats to East Pacific leatherbacks, and outlines specific actions, metrics, timelines and financial needs to ensure success.

The East Pacific Leatherback Turtle Action Plan was produced by a collaboration of more than thirty regional and international experts. The effort was made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and was coordinated by the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

Members of the Expert Working Group gather in Huatulco, Mexico in March 2012 to discuss the action plan.

Bryan Wallace* – Oceanic Society (E.E.U.U.), Jeffrey Seminoff y Peter Dutton – Southwest Fisheries Science Center–NOAA (E.E.U.U.), Vincent Saba – Northeast Fisheries Science Center–NOAA (E.E.U.U.), George Shillinger – Stanford University (E.E.U.U.), Michelle Pico – NFWF (E.E.U.U.), Laura Sarti y Ana Barragán – CONANP (México), Raquel Briseño-Dueñas* – UNAM-Mazatlan (México), Francesca Vannini – Oaxacan Wetland Network (México), Celina Dueñas – MARN (El Salvador), Emilio Leon – FUNZEL (El Salvador), Mike Liles – Texas A&M University (E.E.U.U., El Salvador), Colum Muccio – ARCAS (Guatemala), Jose Urteaga y Perla Torres – Fauna y Flora Internacional (Nicaragua), Pilar Santidrián Tomillo – The Leatherback Trust (Costa Rica), Rotney Piedra – MINAE (Costa Rica), Randall Arauz – Pretoma (Costa Rica), Jacinto Rodriguez, Ozzy Vasquez – Fundación Agua y Tierra (Panamá), Hector Guzman – STRI (Panamá), Andres Baquero – Equilibrio Azul (Ecuador), Joanna Alfaro-Shigueto y Jeffrey Mangel – ProDelphinus (Peru), Javier Quiñones, Evelyn Paredes, Nelly de Paz – IMARPE (Peru), Shaleyla Kelez – ecOceanica (Perú), Jorge Azocar – IFOP (Chile), Miguel Donoso – Pacífico Laúd (Chile), Paula Salinas – Universidad Arturo Prat (Chile), Veronica Caceres – Convención Interamericana para la Protección y Conservación de last Tortugas Marinas, Martin Hall – Comisión Interamericana del Atún Tropical, Diego Amorocho*, Sandra Andraka, Alvaro Segura, y Liliana Rendón – WWF.

The Leatherback Turtle Regional Management Unit (RMU) of the East Pacific (EP) nests along the coast of Mexico, Central and South America. Its geographic distribution area extends from southern Baja California (Mexico), to central Chile, and westward at 130°W (see map). The main nesting sites are located in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero and Oaxaca in Mexico, and in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Secondary nesting sites are found throughout Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Other scattered nesting sites have been reported in Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. So far, foraging areas for the PE leatherback have been documented in Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile (Shillinger et al. 20082011Bailey et al. 2012). The precipitous decline in the current EP leatherback turtle population during the past two decades has been widely documented by several authors (e.g. Santidrián Tomillo et al. 2007Sarti Martínez et al. 2007), making it recently identified as one of the most endangered sea turtle RMUs in the world (Wallace et al. 2011). Comprehensive reviews of nesting abundance in Mexico (Sarti Martínez et al. 2007) and Costa Rica (Santidrián Tomillo et al. 2007), which comprise about 90% of all the EP leatherback nesting, concluded that nesting had declined by more than 90% since 1980 (see figure); going from thousands of nesting females per year at that time, to no more than 1000 adult females making up the current total population. Based on estimates of total annual abundance on a regional scale, this population is now estimated at 150 to 200 females that nest annually on primary and secondary beaches that are currently monitored (observed values: 100 to 150 females per year).
Map of the East Pacific leatherback Regional Management Unit.
Figure. East Pacific leatherback nesting by country, 1982-2011

Both anthropogenic (e.g., bycatch, egg harvest for human consumption) and environmental (e.g., limited food resources) drivers for this decline have been described in detail (vea Wallace and Saba 2009). Long-term monitoring and conservation programs at the most significant nesting beaches in Mexico and Costa Rica have almost completely eliminated threats such as human consumption of eggs and nesting females, increasing the effectiveness of conservation efforts at important sites like Nicaragua (Urteaga et al., 2012). Despite these major advances in the conservation of leatherback turtles, the population abundance of this RMU is still low and continues to decline progressively towards extinction in the region (see figure).

Therefore, it is now time to reflect and act so that we can achieve leatherback conservation in the region through the implementation of an Action Plan in the EP. This document highlights the priority actions identified by a group of regional experts to reverse the decline and promote the long-term recovery of leatherback turtles in the EP.


Download Action Plan for the Leatherback turtle

Action Plan 2022-2032