Title Page
 Community meetings

Title: Marine turtle conservation on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00067367/00001
 Material Information
Title: Marine turtle conservation on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Guillette, Louis J.
Publisher: Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, Department of Wildlife Conservation and Ecology, IFAS, University of Florida
Publication Date: 1997
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00067367
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
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    Community meetings
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Full Text

Final Report to the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

Project Title: Marine Turtle Conservation on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (RWO #171)

Principal Investigator:

Co-Principal Investigators:

Louis J. Guillette, Jr.
Department of Zoology
223 Bartram Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Cathi L. Campbell
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
303 Newins-Ziegler
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Cynthia J. Lagueux
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
303 Newins-Ziegler
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611

Date: 18 December 1997

Marine Turtle Conservation on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua

Louis J. Guillette, Jr., Cathi L. Campbell, Cynthia J. Lagueux


The purpose of this initial phase was to expand our previous work on marine turtles on

the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. This was done through the establishment of a collaborative

program with the Miskitu Indians to reduce the uncontrolled take of marine turtles in this region.

We initiated activities for a multi-year program that will include research, training, and

educational activities involving three Miskitu Indian Communities located in the Indigenous

Communities and Miskito Cays Biosphere Reserve (ICMCBR).

The primary objectives of the initial phase were:

A) to initiate a study on the population structure of marine turtles in the ICMCBR using

mark/recapture techniques and to train and educate Miskitu turtlers in tagging,

measuring, weighting and collecting blood samples;

B) to conduct workshops on the current status of the fishery and marine turtle

conservation from a regional and global perspective; and

C) to conduct meetings with Miskitu communities located within the ICMCBR to discuss

marine turtle conservation and identify specific activities to be implemented.


A field trip to Nicaragua was conducted from 1 September 7 October 1997.

Government permits were obtained, supplies were purchased, and entanglement nets were

constructed from 2 17 September 1997. A national workshop on marine turtle conservation

was conducted on 18 19 September. C. Lagueux, C. Campbell, and D. Castro attended this

Guillette et al. -- 2

workshop and each gave presentations on marine turtles and the Miskitu Indian community

involvement in managing the marine turtle fishery. From 20-23 September, we visited three

communities (Awastara, Dakra, Sandy Bay) to discuss our planned in-water work and a

collaborative agreement with them. We subsequently conducted a trip to the Miskito Cays to

initiate our in-water study on juvenile green turtles (Chelonia mydas) with our collaborators.

These activities were completed on 4 October. We departed for Managua on 5 October and

departed for Florida on 7 October.

Community Meetings

Three turtling communities were visited to discuss our research plans and to request their

approval and collaboration. The elders of each community met prior to our arrival and selected a

representative from their community to accompany us and receive training during our research

activities. This resulted in meetings with only a few community members (including the selected

representatives), consequently objectives B and C were only partially met. Our meetings

consisted of discussions on marine turtle conservation and our research plans. Once we reached

an agreement regarding the research and their involvement we made plans for a field trip to

conduct in-water research. One community (Sandy Bay) declined to participate in our research

and training activities at this time because they did not feel there was a need for their

involvement, although they are in agreement with our project.

In-water Research Field Trip

On 25 September, C. Lagueux and C. Campbell departed Puerto Cabezas in a sailing dory

with a turtle crew of five (Victor Renales and four sons), two community representatives (Robert

Guillette et al. -- 3

Morris and Mario Grant), and Denis Castro (a Miskitu colleague). We arrived at Miskito Cay the

following afternoon. We set turtle nets on the south side of the cay (Jamaica Well Hole) the

following morning. After 2.5 days of netting and searching the immediate area for turtles

without success, we began a more thorough search of the entire circumference of Miskito Cay for

turtles. In addition, we conducted in-water searches (using mask and snorkel) at two coral reefs

to the east and south of Miskito Cay (The Reef and Leimarka). One day was spent searching

Sukra Cay to the north of Miskito Cay. During these searches, we observed one hawksbill

(Eretmochelys imbricata) and one loggerhead (Caretta caretta) turtle, neither of which was

captured. Contrary to our expectations from previous trips to the area, no juvenile green turtles

were observed.

We questioned other turtlers as to the possible location of the small turtles that can

usually be seen in this area and why we were unable to find them. Many turtlers confirmed that

juvenile green turtles were usually in Jamaica Well Hole and suggested other sites where they

had previously been observed, but others acknowledged that the juvenile turtles had not been

around recently and didn't know why. A few possible explanations for the absence of these

juvenile turtles were suggested: 1) there may be some seasonality to the occurrence of juveniles

around Miskito Cay, 2) the turtles only use the area during bad weather months (November and

July were suggested) and the rest of the time the turtles are dispersed throughout the area, 3) the

turtles have moved away from Miskito Cay because of increased human activity on the south and

east sides of Miskito Cay, and 4) the unusually calm summer months in the Caribbean caused by

El Nifio may have had an affect on their movements and dispersal.

Guillette et al. -- 4

With the initiation of the in-water research, we learned that the small juvenile green

turtles of this area may not be resident around Miskito Cay as is the case in many other areas

where they are studied. More questions about the habits of juvenile greens in this area were

generated as a result of this trip, such as: Where were the juvenile greens that we know occur

around Miskito Cay and was their absence unusual or is there some pattern? Why aren't juvenile

green turtles using the shallow sea grass beds of Miskito Cay throughout the year? If there is

seasonality in their use of Miskito Cay, why and where are they the rest of the time? If they are

dispersed in the area why didn't we see any green turtles around the sea grass beds adjacent to

the reefs that we surveyed? Are they using deeper waters where they might be at increased risk

from predators and possibly have more difficulty foraging? Some of these questions will be

answered with the continued in-water work that is scheduled for the next two years.

Research on green turtles using the shallow seagrass beds of the coastal waters of

Nicaragua is important for determining population characteristics and life history traits. These

data are invaluable for population modeling which is necessary to understand how Caribbean

green turtle populations are likely to respond to the current exploitation of more than 10,000

large juvenile and adult animals that are taken annually from the Nicaragua foraging ground.

This information is also necessary to develop appropriate management strategies for a currently

uncontrolled harvest of an endangered species. Although the initial phase did not produce

quantitative data, it was successful in accomplishing a most important objective, that of

establishing a cooperative agreement with the people who have the power to allow this research

to be conducted and who have the most to lose if the Caribbean green turtle disappears.

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