Marine Turtle Conservation in Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
We are the Bay Islands Conservation Association – Utila Chapter, a small grassroots organization in the beautiful island of Utila, in the Caribbean of Honduras. We have worked for the protection of its natural resources for the past 30 years. This time we are fundraising for our Marine Turtle Conservation Project where we protect, through constant night patrols, the nesting turtles from any harm or threat while they lay their eggs. The nests are referenced with GPS and looked after until they hatch and with the help of our staff and community and international volunteers, we make sure the babies make it to the ocean.
Why protect sea turtles?
Sea turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatch and it makes it difficult to protect them. Sea turtles play a very important role in the marine ecosystem, eating seagrass and sponge keeping seagrass beds and coral reefs ecosystems healthy and their extinction can result in the loss of productivity in the food web. Utila is home to hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles, that according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species are critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable, respectively and all are in CITES Appendix I.
Where it all happens:
Utila is the smallest of the three Bay Islands, we concentrate our efforts on Pumpkin Hill beach, in the North-East portion of the island, where we’ve been actively involved in the protection of nesting turtles and hatchlings since 2009. Outlaying areas are looked after volunteers that let us know when there's activity. In the beginning, we were only a very few people giving all to protect nesting females and monitor future hatching. Now we are working with the community, local government, schools through our Environmental Education Program, local youth through our Reef Leaders Project, international and local volunteers, and other conservation NGOs on the island.
What we are looking for:
BICA Utila’s Marine Turtle Conservation Project is working to protect sea turtles and their endangered nests by patrolling beaches. Our work is focused on three main goals:
1) Protect sea turtles and their nests through night beach patrols. Marine turtles are a biological indicator of ecosystem health, they show us the efficiency of management in marine protected areas. Record ecological data to study the evolution of the female population. To carry out this project we need to raise funds to hire staff, purchase equipment and materials, buy fuel and give maintenance to our vehicles so our staff and research assistants can patrol the beaches during the night. Staff, equipment, and materials cost: $ 3,000 USD - Equipment and vehicle maintenance, and gas cost: $ 5,000 USD
2) Carry out an investigation that helps the management of the species. Utila lies in the Bay Islands National Marine Park, Honduras’ biggest Marine Protected Area. All the data collected is important for the management of the park and is socialized to the community and to the co-managers of the Park, helping the decision making.
3) Educate and influence people into making sustainable choices and decisions, including those who work in business and make decisions around the use of natural resources, and those who work in government and set policy that impacts nature. To accomplish our ambitious goals, we work in the field and in the local community, from the office to the nesting beach.
Thousands of baby turtles need you!
We are raising funds for the 2020 nesting season from June 1st through October 31st. Success with this effort will provide security for nesting sea turtles by increasing protection from poachers and other threats. This protection allows more baby sea turtles to reach the ocean safely! Your contribution can change everything! You can help us paint a different picture, one that protects nesting habitats so the sea turtle population will flourish.
The success of our work:
It is reflected by the increasing number of nests that go from 9 nests and 422 eggs hatching in 2011 to 52 nests and 4,991 turtles emerged in 2019. Finally, last season, 7 new hawksbills and one loggerhead were tagged. We also confirmed the return of four hawksbill turtles that had nested in previous years. Working together with founders, donors, students, tourists, locals, and residents can help build a new and thriving future for the nesting sea turtles of Utila.
How can you help?
- Talk to everyone you know about turtles and the danger they are facing: spreading awareness is a big part of our conservation efforts.
- Support this project, by making a donation. You will make a huge impact!
- Share this campaign to get more and more people involved to help us save the sea turtles! (Instagram: @bica_utila; Facebook: @BICA.UTILA)