New foraging grounds for hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas) along the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Central America
Scarce information is available on the foraging grounds of Eastern Pacific sea turtle populations, which hinders the design of efficient national and regional conservation strategies. We surveyed five locations along Costa Rica’s North Pacific between 2010-2013 using 45cm mesh turtle tangle nets, with the aim to explore and document new foraging sites (Cabo Blanco, Punta Coyote, Punta Pargos, Punta Argentina, and Bahía Matapalito). We standardized Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) as turtles caught per 100m of headrope length per one-hour soak time, which ranged from 0.06 at Punta Pargos to 0.58 in Bahía Matapalito for hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), and from 0.01 in Punta Coyote to 0.10 in Cabo Blanco for Eastern Pacific green turtles (Chelonia mydas). We found site-specific size ranges for E. imbricata with mean ± Standard Deviation (SD) Curve Carapace Lengths (CCL) of 42.46±17.55cm in Bahía Matapalito and 61.25±13.08cm in Cabo Blanco. Only one individual was found at each of the other sites with CCLs from 49.6cm to 60.5cm. Green turtles were found at three of the surveyed locations with mean CCLs of 67.67±19.44cm at Cabo Blanco and 69.40±9.40cm at Punta Coyote and only one individual at Bahía Matapalito with a CCL of 56.2cm. The absence of adult size classes for E. imbricata and of small juvenile size classes for C. mydas at most of these sites stresses the complexity of species-specific distribution during different life stages in the Eastern Pacific and the urgent need to implement long-term monitoring at different coastal sites along the North Pacific to understand habitat connectivity. This study reveals the existence of fragile, non-protected foraging grounds for hawksbill and green turtles in Costa Rica’s North Pacific, and serves as a guide for future research initiatives to strengthen national and regional conservation strategies. Rev. Biol. Trop. 62 (Suppl. 4): 109-118. Epub 2014 Diciembre 01.