Costa Rica government backed proposal would harm critically endangered sea turtles



Posted on 21 April 2010  | 
A leatherback turtle returns to the sea. Its habitat is under threat from rising sea levels due to climate change, beach development, pollution and unsustainable fishing practice
© WWF-Canon / Ronald PETOCZEnlarge
San José, Costa Rica: The Costa Rican government is supporting a proposed law that will allow construction in Las Baulas National Marine Park and destroy a critical nesting beach for endangered leatherback turtles.

If passed, Proposal 17383 would reduce the 175 km2 Baulas National Park by 40 percent which, would leave only 50 meters of beach for leatherback turtles to nest and would allow for the construction of houses, condos, hotels and restaurants on the beach. A vote on the proposal is set for tomorrow, April 22..

The leatherback, the biggest of all sea turtles, is critically endangered due to development on its nesting beaches, rising sea levels caused by climate change and incidental captures in fisheries. Populations are especially depleted in the Pacific, where only 2,000 to 3,000 animals are estimated to survive, down from around 90,000 two decades ago.

“Costa Rica is considered an example in environmental conservation and has an international responsibility to protect this critically endangered species,” said Aimee Leslie, Advocacy Director for The Leatherback Trust.

“But the proposed law ignores concrete measures to protect the important Costa Rican resources Las Baulas National Park holds such as leatherback and olive ridley turtles."

Proposal 17383, put forth by the Minister of the Presidency, Rodrigo Arias (the brother of President Oscar Arias) would allow developers to build houses, restaurants and hotels on the beach.

Since 1995 the park has become a centre of locally managed eco-tourism, benefiting local communities to the tune of over US $2 million a year.

Scientists warn that sea-levels could rise by at least one meter by the end of the century due to climate change. If Proposal 17383 goes ahead and the boundaries of the national park are changed, not only will leatherback turtles lose a critical nesting beach, but Las Baulas National Park would also lose beach area and mangroves that act as a buffer from rising seas. Without this buffer, what is left of Las Baulas National Park could disappear underwater in the future.

“In relation to rising sea levels, the proposal to change the boundaries of the national park is shortsighted,” assures Ana Fonseca, WWF Species Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It would compromise the long-term role of the Park as a leatherback turtle nesting area, which was the very reason the park was created in the first place.”

The future of Las Baulas National Marine Park and the Pacific leatherback sea turtle is in the hands of 57 congressmen and women in Costa Rica and WWF calls on them to make the right decision and vote against the destruction of one of Costa Rica’s most treasured national parks.

For further information:
Ana Fonseca, Species coordinator for Latin America & the Caribbean, WWF, afonseca@wwfca.org
Aimee Leslie, Advocacy Director for The Leatherback Trust, aimee@salvemosbaulas.org


A leatherback turtle returns to the sea. Its habitat is under threat from rising sea levels due to climate change, beach development, pollution and unsustainable fishing practice
© WWF-Canon / Ronald PETOCZ Enlarge

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