Conserving Sea Turtles
In Comcaac territory of northern Mexico, sea turtle nesting season begins in June on a remote coastal inlet near the tiny village of Desemboque located on the eastern side of the Gulf of California. Throughout the night, a team of Comcaac sea turtle conservation leaders and youth scour 20 kilometers of desert coastline to locate sea turtle nests and transport the eggs back to a sea turtle nursery located outside the village. The majority of nesting turtles are olive ridley, one of five species of sea turtles that migrate to the seagrass beds of Zostera marina in Comcaac marine territory, the largest in the region. During the 2022 season a total of 8,452 eggs were collected from the nests of olive ridley turtles to protect them from predation. The eggs were transported to incubation nests at the base camp nursery and 6,152 hatchlings were later liberated. Check back in December for an update on our 2023 results.
The health of sea turtles, a highly migratory species, cannot be ensured by isolated conservation efforts. In order to properly conserve the turtles’ populations and the ecosystems in which they live we are linking conservation efforts and cultural dialogues with other community-led efforts across Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and other communities in the Gulf of California and Pacific coast of Baja California. For more information on this initiative check out this video by Amazon Conservation Team: Ancestral Tides- Uniting Indigenous Knowledge to Protect Sea Turtles and Coastal Ecosystems.
Members of Ancestral Tides sea turtle conservation team visited the Comcaac team to support leadership development, provide technical assistance and participate in cultural exchanges. To help standardize the collection of data with other groups in the network we trained the Comcaac team in the use of a data entry application on mobile phones.
For all sea turtles, a warming is likely to result in changes in beach structure and higher sand temperatures, which can be lethal to eggs or alter the ratio of male and female hatchlings produced. Rising sea levels and storm events have caused beach erosion and flooding that swamped the incubating sea turtle nests in the nursery. To prevent inundation from reoccurring, the team relocated the sea turtle nursery inland. The installation of shade structures and temperature monitors will help mitigate temperature extremes.
Changes in the temperature of the marine environment are likely to alter the abundance and distribution of food resources, leading to a shift in the migratory and foraging range and nesting season of olive ridleys. For an update on our coastal habitat restoration project see our recent blog.
The sea turtle is central to Comcaac culture. The green turtle plays an important role in their creation account and the giant leatherback turtle is considered a sacred being. Elder Comcaac singers and historians share dozens of songs and stories about the sea turtle so that the youth remember and can sing the songs and tell the stories into the future.
Listen to a song about the leatherback turtle sung by teacher Manuel Monroy. Recording by Laura Monti.
This international indigenous sea turtle conservation effort is supported by our collaborating partner Amazon Conservation Team.