Mirroring the reports of turtle deaths on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula we reported yesterday, further down the Pacific Coast in Guatemala, the Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS) recently reported the stranding of eighty dead sea turtles on the black volcanic sand beaches of La Barrona, Las Lisas, Chapeton and Hawaii.
Among the stranded turtles were leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, and the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) which is listed as Vulnerable. The entire Guatemalan coast has historically been a significant nesting area for both species.
The turtles forage in the estuaries and mangrove waterways along the 250 kilometers of the country’s Pacific coast which is divided by 14 river mouths and peppered with mangrove wetlands and lagoons.
As in Mexico, one of the main threats to sea turtles here is fisheries by-catch. Researchers report that the appearance of shrimp trawlers always coincides with the appearance of dead turtles on the beaches.
Guatemala is currently working on instituting a ban on bottom trawling, such as has been done in Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and El Salvador, where trawlers must stay at least 3 miles from shore.
Guatemalan trawlers are required to use turtle excluder devices but enforcement is difficult and fines are very light