Hawksbill sea turtles find safe haven in Belize

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Hawksbill sea turtles find safe haven in Belize

November 30, 2016 - 15:08
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A healthy population of hawksbill sea turtles is thriving in the protected waters of Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize, thanks to efforts to protect them and other marine species, according to Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Belize Fisheries Department.

In addition to snorkel surveys along underwater transects, the researchers used established methods to catch, examine, tag and release sea turtles during the study.

More than 1,000 juvenile hawksbill sea turtles had been found in the coral reefs surrounding the atoll, which is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Reserve System. “A healthy population of hawksbill turtles at Glover’s Reef has positive implications for recovery of the species in Belize and the wider Caribbean region,” said Nicole Auil Gomez, WCS Belize Country Director.

The Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve is essential to Belize's fishing economy and the region’s marine biodiversity. WCS had worked with the Belize Fisheries Department and local stakeholders to initiate a conservation plan for the site.

The good news was reported in a recent issue of the Endangered Species Research journal. In their paper, the scientists described the results of their research between 2007 and 2013, during which they conducted snorkel surveys on sea turtles. They found more than 1,000 juvenile hawksbill turtles, with much smaller numbers of green and loggerhead sea turtles. They also determined that the probability of their survival was high, another reason for optimism about the persistence of sea turtles at Glover’s Reef Atoll.

Fisheries Administrator Beverly Wade said that “This study validates the importance of the Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve for the survival of such an iconic species. The thriving hawksbill turtles are a wonderful success story for the government and people of Belize and its partners in their efforts toward the sustained management and conservation of the Glover’s Reef Atoll.”

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