Enhancing a Community-Based Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Program in Mayto-Tehuamixtle, Jalisco

Michael Farid Zavala Armenta

Participation of the local community members, their experience, knowledge of local environment, flora and fauna are key elements for the success of a conservation program. Thanks to reports and captures by local fishers, we have been able to mark more than 135 juvenile and sub-adult critically endangered Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles, with more than 90% of captures done by community members while diving for oyster, lobster and octopus.

Profile picture of turtle for Photo ID project.

Profile picture of turtle for Photo ID project.

We aim to identify the specific ecological role those resident hawksbills serve in the rocky reef off the coast of Mayto-Tehuamixtle, Jalisco. This area is a primary site for fishing and tourism and fulfills the livelihood of various inland communities. We believe that the rocky reef habitat may be identified as critical foraging habitat and should be recognized as such for the long-term conservation of the population.

We will determine population status, growth rates, body condition index and residence time of the different size classes of the local hawkbills. As well as collecting blood, tissue and stomach content, for future biochemistry and health, genetic and diet studies. We will also collaborate with other investigations studying epibionts for stable isotopes studies, photo-identification and skeletochronology studies. Workshops with locals, tourists, volunteers and students will also take place to create conscience and spread our work.

This study will also work as a base-line for future local studies, obtaining information about coastal bathymetry, bentic fauna as well as helping create a standardized protocol to extend our work to other communities along the coast, as well as giving our project a greater reach, with the local fishermen and divers as the main actors, to create conscience of the value of live sea

turtles.

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