WildHope Digital Magazine WildHope Fall 2012 : Page 27

FORGOTTEN TURTLES than 100 miles apart and unknown to science just a few years ago, now account for roughly 90 percent of known hawksbill nesting on the Pacific coast between Mexico and Ecuador. The discovery of these two nesting areas has given new hope for the future of hawksbill turtles in the region. But it also creates a major sense of urgency to address the threats that the hawksbills face. One serious threat is from an especially destructive form of fishing used in the area, known as blast fishing. As violent as it sounds, this technique uses a mixture of sugar, chlorate, and sulfur to create an explosion that kills anything within an estimated radius of up to 80 feet (25 meters), including turtles. ICAPO estimates that more than 25 hawksbills have been killed by blast fishing in Jiquilisco Bay since 2004 (out of a total estimated regional population of fewer than 1,000 turtles). ICAPO has recently formed a partnership with US-based organization EcoViva to address blast fishing and lobby the government to enforce laws against this illegal fishing practice. I had an opportunity to join an international re-search team visiting both of these Central Ameri-can wildlife hotspots to learn about the threats to these turtles and the people working to protect them. Since we had arrived at Jiquilisco Bay in the dark, the morning boat ride was my first daylight impression of El Salvador’s largest wetland, critically important for its wildlife habitat and fisheries. The blue water was ringed by volcanoes, looming over the water like giant sentries. We arrived as prepara-tions for the day’s big event, the annual Hawksbill Turtle Festival, were just getting underway. The event started with a literal bang as a parade of hundreds of students from around the bay led by the Salvadoran Navy’s marching band and a school drum section made their way down the beach. The area’s major social event of the year, the festival included traditional dancing, speakers, a clown, 27

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