Sea turtles migrate from their nesting grounds in Japan across the Pacific Ocean to the coast of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico.

Student Kari Gehrke with Green female nesting turtle, Tortuguero beach, Costa Rica. (Photo: Sea Turtle Restoration Project)

They stay in Baja for decades as they grow and mature, feeding primarily on red crabs. But the environment there is turning increasingly hostile. The growth of the crab fishery has resulted in thousands of gillnets stretched across Baja’s Pacific coastal waters.

Dead sea turtles bycatch on-board a Baja gillnet vessel.

    To the loggerheads the nets are walls of death. Last summer saw a 600% increase in dead sea turtles in the Gulf of Ulloa on the Baja coast, including 483 loggerheads washed up dead on 40 km of shoreline in the month of July alone. Scientists estimate over 2,000 loggerheads were killed there last year in gillnets.

 The enormous bycatch is jeopardizing the turtles’ survival.

Further south on Central American beaches, poaching of sea turtle eggs is having a similar effect. Studies of poaching at different Costa Rican and Honduran beaches, indicates literally every beach experiences a high degree of egg poaching.

Baby sea turtles, Costa Rica. (Photo: Lindsay Fendt)

    Beach-patrols in Costa Rica are helping to stem the poaching but resistance is fierce. Just a few days ago, Jairo Mora, a 26 year old conservationist who worked at a sanctuary protecting  baby sea turtles on Playa Moín, was found dead with his hands tied behind his back. He was on patrol with a group of other volunteers when the group was attacked and Mora was kidnapped. It was determined he had been beaten and tortured.

“It was him they wanted, because he was the one who was always looking after the nests,” the owner of the turtle sanctuary, Vanessa Lizano, told BBC News.

Sea turtle eggs are considered a delicacy,

    Smugglers can make as much as $300 a day stealing turtle eggs from their buried nests and selling the eggs.

Sources: Sea Turtle Restoration Project/Tico TImes.