Las Tunas, a fishing village in the Ecuadorian province of Manabí (west), has proposed to save the green sea turtles, in danger of extinction, that nest on its beaches and whose care has meant a new form of sustainable coexistence for this community.
The inhabitants of Las Tunas, who are engaged in fishing and tourism, have proposed to protect the nests of sea turtles of the Verde varieties (Chelonia mydas) and Golfina (Lepidochelys olivacea), who arrive by the ocean to their beaches to leave their eggs and return soon to the sea.
Nest care is supported by the United Kingdom Embassy in Ecuador and the “Jocotoco” Foundation, an environmental NGO that makes efforts to rescue and protect endangered species throughout the Ecuadorian territory.
Michael Moens, Director of Conservation of the “Jocotoco” Foundation, explained to Efe that in the last few months about ten nests of green turtles and dolphins, which contained between 30 and 100 eggs each, and which in the end, last January, allowed them to hatch about 500 small turtles that have reached the sea.
Green sea turtles are listed as endangered species on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while Golfina is in the “vulnerable species” section, Moens added.
He mentioned that the scientists who collaborate in the project also try to find nests or turtles of another variety of sea turtle, the so-called Carey (Eretmochelys imbricata), which is in “critical danger” of extinction, because there are about a thousand individuals worldwide and it is believed that it also nested in the past on the beaches of Manabí.
Moens, of Belgian origin, said that this project of protection of sea turtles has taken great importance thanks to the impetus of the population of Las Tunas, which “has messed with everything”, considering that this activity also benefits him, both because of the care of the natural environment, as for tourism.
And is that the turtle protection project is tied to a “plan against plastic waste” on the beaches and rivers of Ecuador, since, in addition to indiscriminate fishing and other hazards, this material is one of the greatest threats to the chelonians, the expert said.
“Recycling plastics to save lives” is the project that is carried out in Las Tunas, with the support of the British Embassy, through which the inhabitants make handicrafts with the material collected to sell to tourists arriving at the site.
“Now Las Tunas beach is one of the cleanest in the country,” and this has also allowed the arrival of sea turtles to spawn, Moens added, warning that the other factor that attracts visitors.
The community has received sufficient training and has reproduced among tourists the idea of protecting turtle nests, the scientist added, explaining that, for example, the inhabitants have placed natural barriers around the nests and located signs for tourists Don’t get close to those places.
“Tourism has a strong impact, but by having signage and a committed community,” the danger is reduced, added Moens, who even told as anecdote that dogs and other pets, which usually pose a threat to turtles, in Las Tunas have ceased to be.
However, he pointed out that sea turtles are still threatened by plastic pollution, artisanal and industrial fishing and species trafficking, which highlighted the monitoring project that Jocotoco and several students of the University of Guayaquil have undertaken in that area to protect the chelonians.
“Sea turtle populations are declining and the most efficient way to protect them is for communities that live on the beaches to know the importance that these animals have on biodiversity and act in favor of their protection,” the Jocotoco Foundation said in a report. about the project.
Fernando Arroyo León