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El Salvador

Montecristo Island


Conservation benefit: Protection of four endangered species of marine turtles

Community benefit: Turtle egg hatchery construction and management; artisanal fishing equipment; awareness campaign; ecotourism support

Date Approved: 06.2022

Hawksbill, olive ridley, green, and leatherback turtles nest on the beaches of Montecristo Island, one of the main sea turtle nesting sites in El Salvador. But poachers take eggs. Snakes, crabs, and domestic animals also prey on them.

This puts more pressure on these endangered species, whose populations are already reduced by loss of habitat, fishing methods that catch them inadvertently, marine debris, and climate change. It is a disaster not only for these amazing animals, but for the ecosystems they are part of. Marine turtles help keep seagrass and coral reefs healthy and play an important role in the ocean food web.

This project would protect these endangered creatures with three initiatives:

A safe place for turtle eggs. A new hatchery and small guardhouse will be built on a site that will avoid flooding from the nearby Lempa River and contamination from latrines and aquaculture ponds. Local people will walk the beaches during turtle nesting season, collect eggs, and immediately take them to the hatchery. About 120,000 eggs will be collected and incubated in the hatchery, monitored around the clock by trained people. Some egg collectors will also monitor nesting sea turtle populations, providing important feedback for the hatchery’s operation. In exchange for this seasonal conservation work, groups of collectors will receive traditional fishing equipment, such as nets and small boats.

A public awareness campaign. With radio spots, social media campaigns, and in-person events, our project partner, Asociación Mangle, will educate people about the marine turtles and encourage conservation.

Turtle tourism. Outreach to tourists, beach cleanups, and public releases of hatchlings all encourage wildlife-based tourism. That in turn gives local people an economic incentive for keeping turtles safe and lets fishermen diversity their sources of income to include ecotourism.

Project Updates

July 2023

This project is now complete. With the support of the Ministry of the Environment, two training days for community members have been held, focusing on monitoring sea turtles and hatchery management. Approximately 20 egg collectors participated. Three radio spots aired on local Radio Mangle, as well as an interview with Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstein. As of the end of the 2022 hatching season, 157,000 eggs were collected, and only 24,545 failed to hatch. As an incentive for the turtle egg collectors, artisanal fishing activities were developed, including boat construction and repair. Seacology staffer Karen Peterson visited the project in May.

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February 2023

Community members repaired the hatchery and began collecting turtle eggs last September. By October 4, they had documented 1,239 nests and incubated 114,704 eggs. Our project partners have developed educational and training materials to teach fishers how to monitor and protect turtle nests. Unfortunately, they had to postpone training sessions because of Hurricane Julia, a deadly storm that struck Central America in October.

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