Sea Turtle Conservation Program

Image: Gonzalo Arcilla

Background and goals

Six of the seven species that exist in the world can be found in Mexico. Four of these species nest in the Yucatan Peninsula, these are: the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata); the green turtle (Chelonia mydas); the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

All species are considered threatened or in danger of extinction. Some of the threats affecting theses species are: unplanned urban and tourist development in coastal areas, effects of climate change that cause the loss of critical habitats, as well as incidental capture, contamination and predation.

Why is the conservation of sea turtles important?

Sea turtles have an important ecological role in the ecosystem, they maintain the ecological equilibrium of it, help maintain the stability of beaches by keeping seagrass beds in a healthy state, which also contributes to the health of other species of commercial interest.

Some species like the loggerhead turtle, feed on mollusks. During their search for food they remove sediment, promoting the circulation of nutrients and organic matter.

The work of Pronatura Península de Yucatán A. C.

The Sea Turtle Conservation Program has worked for 28 years in the conservation of sea turtles in the Natural Protected Areas of the Biosphere Reserve of Ría Celestún, Biosphere Reserve of Ría Lagartos in Yucatán, and the Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna of Yum Balam in Quintana Roo, consolidating a monitoring program of nesting beaches and contributing with information to improve their management plans.

The specific goals of the program are:

Ensure the nesting success of sea turtles in key areas in the north coast of the Yucatan peninsula.
Generate and facilitate information and scientific knowledge about sea turtle populations and their habitats for decision making and adaptive management in collaboration with local communities.
Teach about the importance of the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats to promote a responsible attitude towards these species that are key components of the ecosystems they inhabit.

Furthermore, in nesting areas and adjacent zones, we work to sensitize different groups of the community such as fishermen on subjects related to incidental capture and good fishing practices; hotel managers with information related to responsible tourism and good illumination practices; and schools about the biology of sea turtles, climate change, threats, and importance of sargassum mats.

Protection and monitoring sites

The sites where we protect and monitor sea turtle nesting of Celestún and El Cuyo in Yucatán, and Holbox Island in Quintana Roo -coordinated by PPY-, as well as Arrecife Alacranes and Las Coloradas -in collaboration with Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)- correspond to a total of 124 km of beach that represent more than 15% of the North Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. With two daily patrols during 27 days a month for seven months, a total of 46,872 km are driven every nesting season.

The monitoring of foraging areas occurs in Laguna de Términos in collaboration with CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) and in Yum Balam. In both places we evaluate the juvenile population of green and hawksbill turtles to learn about recruitment rates and their population health.

Protected Natural Areas where the Program for the Conservation of Sea Turtles of PPY works in the Yucatan Peninsula. The green boxes indicate the turtle camps coordinated by PPY, the blue boxes are the turtle camps that are coordinated in collaboration with CONANP.

Volunteer Program at Sea Turtle Camps

Every year, PPY coordinates the Sea Turtle Camp Volunteer with the purpose of involving people interested in the conservation and protection of these species. Volunteer activities take place from April to October and space is limited. If you are interested in participating as a volunteer, send us an email to tortugasmarinas@pronatura-ppy.org.mx for more information.

Last five years funding

CONANP (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas)
Alianza WWF-Fundación Carlos Slim
Mesoamerican Reef (MAR Fund)
Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (FMCN)
Calizas Industriales del Carmen, S.A. de C.V. (CALICA)
Industria Salinera de Yucatán S. A. de C. V. (ISYSA)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.