Wednesday, 17 March 2010


From: Costa Rican Conservation Network's Blog
Date: 3/9/2010 5:13:05 AM

Subject: [New post] The Final Leatherback Battle Has Begun (update on bill 17.383)

The Final Leatherback Battle Has Begun (update on bill 17.383)
Andy Bystrom | March 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

What might be the final and decisive battle in the decade long war over the fate of Leatherback sea turtle (Las Baulas) National Park in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, has begun.

All fotos courtesy of Alexander Gaos
On March 4th the presidentially sponsored bill 17.383 that proposes to downgrade Las Baulas to a national wildlife refuge and pave the way for private landholders to develop their plots inside the existing National Park’s turtle nesting buffer zone, was officially presented before the Legislative Assembly’s nine member Environmental Commission. If approved by the Environmental Commission, the bill would move to a plenary vote where members of President Oscar Arias’ Liberation party hold a controlling majority and have been instructed to not stand in its way.

Late last year it looked as though support for the bill was waning and park supporters began to harbor the belief that the Costa Rican government had come to its senses and would turn its interest away from a handful of rich private interests and towards the responsible governing of this small Central American country. Nope.

Instead, a rushed technical report that justifies the bill was slapped together. In effect, the report takes all of the conclusions from the country’s most noted agencies – including prominent reports from groundwater authorities, notable scientific reports from international NGOs, among others – and completely discombobulates figures and facts to support the Park’s demise. And although court order after court order supports the need to expropriate these privately held lands, special interests refuse to cooperate and negotiate a fair market value for their possessions. Because of this the government cannot begin to reacquire crucial Park acreage.

The disturbing truth in all of this is how many of these land holders are foreign citizens with notably shallow interest in conserving Costa Rican natural resources and culture.

To send a letter of support to the Costa Rican government for Las Baulas National Park , please follow the instructions below.

In addition, please spread the word about the atrocities that are happening to the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle in this “ecologically conscious” country. It’s time to stop these private interests from dictating whether or not our children will get the chance to experience these beautiful animals.

Costa Ricans and foreigners are encouraged to defend the park by writing personal letters to Senora Hania M. Durán at the Legislative Assembly:

In addition, please copy President Arias’ secretary, Mariangel Solera, at and the Costa Rican marine turtle conservation NGO Pretoma at

The following is a sample letter:

Costa Rica created Las Baulas National Park by Law in 1995, acknowledging the country's responsibility the most viable leatherback nesting beaches in the Eastern Pacific. Unfortunately, I’m aware that this Honorable Commission is reviewing bill 17.383 to amend the Law and downgrade the park to a national wildlife refuge, something that would alter critical leatherback nesting habitat. I’m also aware of the State Attorney’s and the Constitutional Court’s rulings that mandate the Government of Costa Rica to immediately proceed with the expropriation of lands within the Park’s boundaries for their permanent protection.

I therefore urge this Commission to uphold the aforementioned Court rulings, and reject this bill.

Thank you.



Legal sea turtle egg take, Costa Rica
Andy Bystrom | November 17, 2010 at 10:38 am | Tags: Costa Rica, Ostional, sea turtle conservation, Sea turtle eggs, sea turtles | Categories: Conservation Costa Rica | URL:

I have decided to repost my February article "Did you know it's legal to poach sea turtle nests?" because of the amount of question and comments I've received. The viral email "World-wide shame in Costa Rica" is still making the rounds, and many people have been left with more questions than answers. Here, I have added more information/explanation to my original article, and I hope it continues to shed some light on the situation...

At certain times of the year along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast it is 100% legal to dig up threatened sea turtle nests and sell/consume the eggs therein. Surprised? You’re not alone.

Olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), or tortuga lora in Costa Rican Spanish, generally nest during Costa Rica’s Pacific coast rainy season (May-November). On a few beaches, Ostional being the most famous, the species demonstrates synchronized mass nesting or “arribadas” where thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of loras arrive on the same beach on the same day. The phenomenon occurs every month during the wet season to varying degrees, always around the last quarter moon.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s biologists from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) concluded that the succeeding waves of nesting females coming ashore during these arribadas actually crushed, destroyed, and/or contaminated 70-90% of the previously laid eggs. Researchers, along with the Environmental Ministry, concluded that there would be no harm to the species’ relative abundance along Costa Rican shores if, instead of being trampled into one big scrambled mess, Ostional community members were permitted to dig up 1% of the nests and consume/sell the eggs.

Legally speaking, only members of the Ostional Integrated Development Association (ADIO) are permitted to harvest the eggs. In addition, the harvest is limited to the first 36 hours of the arribada. The eggs must be packaged in plastic bags marked with the ADIO logo where they are then sold nationally to markets, restaurants and other business in Costa Rica.

Recently released pictures have many sea turtle conservationists in an uproar. With no transparency in the turtle egg business, the legal loop hole opens the flood gates for almost anyone to claim their eggs are from Ostional, thus leading to the rampant poaching of all types of sea turtle eggs on both coasts.

The coin does have a flip-side. The egg take provides a fledgling coastal community with a source of income and food. Generation after generation has used simple turtle eggs to make pancakes to feed their families. The exception to the law was put in place as a way to sustainably manage the area’s nesting turtle population; however, with no way to enforce that only Ostional eggs are commercialized, Costa Rica has opened to door to a kind of sea turtle egg consumption pandemonium.

The arribada phenomenon was first discovered by the scientific community by North American biologists in the early 70’s. In 1982 Costa Rica created the Ostional Wildlife Refuge. One of the first actions the government took was to ban the extraction of turtle eggs. This created quite a bit of community unrest because of its economic dependence on the sale of these eggs. There was a lot of talk in the 80’s regarding the most effective way to protect sea turtle populations. Biologists concluded that the 100% prohibition of eggs extractions was not the best way to protect the species.

It was concluded that the eggs laid by the first turtles to arrive during the arribaba were actually trampled by succeeding turtles and left to rot in a sort of scrambled mess. The eggs then spawn the growth of a fungus that impedes hatching success in subsequent nests. This fungus is suspected to have destroyed a large portion of the population of nesting olive ridley turtles at Playa Nancite, a famous, former arribada beach where 100K turtles used to nest but only 1 out of 100 eggs hatched successfully. On the contrary, the fungus has not destroyed turtle populations in Ostional because a percentage of the eggs has always been taken for human consumption. For this reason, the University of Costa Rica (UCR) established a program in 1985 where eggs could be taken legally during the first 36 hours of the arribada.

Although UCR researchers concluded that “taking” eggs is an effective way to manage the populations of nesting olive ridleys at Ostional, no peer reviewed scientific paper supporting these conclusions has ever been excepted for publication–something of a faux pas among members of the academic world.

There is no doubt that the viral email that contains pictures of Costa Ricans collecting turtle eggs had given the country’s environmental policies a black eye. In addition, the country’s inability to monitor the egg market’s chain of custody promotes poaching on all beaches where turtles nest.

The olive ridley sea turtle is not an endangered species; however, according to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species the animal’s status is vulnerable and its population trend is decreasing.

For links to more opinions on the Ostional egg take, click here. And to watch a spectacular video on nesting olive ridleys on this beach, click here.

Another site Here.


Bernadette1 (Bernie) said...

I love your information about the Brass Monkeys. We have Old Ironsides in Boston so have heard that expression before and knew what they were talking about.

Domick said...

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Pumpy said...

Thank you Domick.