COSTA  RICAN  LONGLINE  FISHERMAN  SAVES  4  LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLES, FIGHTS FOR HOURS TO SAVE EVERY ONE

Selfless Act Of Marine Conservation By Costa Rican Fishermen Will Result In Thousands Of Potential Turtle Hatchlings


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(January 14, 2009 San José, Costa Rica) – Captian Rafael Fallas and his crew aboard the fishing vessel “Don Christopher”, based out of Playas del Coco, Costa Rica, have freed three female leatherback sea turtles and one male leatherback this season, all of which were snagged on fishing hooks.  The selfless act of marine conservation has cost the captain and crew hours of their own time and money as they wrestled the massive reptiles onboard and untangle their shells and flippers from the fishing lines.  Female leatherbacks can grow up to two meters in length and nest four to five times a season from October to March on the Pacific coast.  They lay an average of 80-90 eggs per nest, meaning the time Captain Fallas and his crew took to release the snagged turtles will potentially yield over a thousand hatchlings this nesting season alone.

“Four leatherback turtles hooked in a single year, this is something I haven’t seen in a long time”, said a surprised Fallas, a veteran fisherman of more than 20 years.  “Leatherbacks are only rarely caught nowadays, they are almost extinct, which is why we do everything we can to save these endangered animals and release them unharmed”, informed Fallas.

Four adult leatherback turtles represent a significant percentage of the Eastern Tropical Pacific’s leatherback population, which has declined 95% during the last decades, and now face possible extinction in the next 5-30 years if current disruptions to their migratory routes by the fisheries industry and destruction of nesting habitats from beachfront development projects and poachers are not addressed.  Captain Fallas’ altruistic act highlights a change in the Costa Rican fishing community’s awareness to protect this species along the Pacific coast.

Fishermen work to untangle a leatherback sea turtle
Fishermen work to untangle a leatherback sea turtle

“For years, Costa Rica has focused its attention on protecting the leatherback’s nesting beaches, but now it´s time for Costa Rica to work more actively on protecting the leatherback at sea”, advised Randall Arauz, President of the Costa Rican NGO Pretoma.  “This will require proper zoning of fisheries activities in coastal and pelagic waters during leatherback migrations, and major political lobbying in international forums for regional agreements”, said Arauz.

With its populations devastated by habitat destruction and unsustainable fishing practices, Costa Rican leatherbacks have been the epicenter of marine turtle conservation efforts for over a decade. “We’re seeing the results of years of research projects and educational campaigns aimed at children as well as the fishing community”, explained Andy Bystrom, Pretoma’s communications coordinador.  “Captain Fallas and his crew are excellent examples of how individual fishermen hold the power to help save a species from extinction, and I hope other fisheries, for example foreign fleets that traffic shark fins, will work in solidarity to do the same”.

Costa Rica’s Pacific leatherbacks swim thousands of kilometers along their migratory routs each year. Their arrival in coastal waters represents the culmination of this arduous journey.  “Fishermen like Captain Fallas, who take the time to release a snagged leatherback, play a crucial role in the species’ survival by ensuring that these animals successfully complete their journeys and nest on Costa Rica’s Pacific beaches”, said Andrés López, Pretoma’s Fisheries Coordinator.  “These fishermen are also taking time to release other endangered species unharmed, such as small sized sharks, which is very encouraging now that Shark Action Plans are being implemented in the region”, said an enthusiastic López.

Thank Captain Fallas
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  3. Thank you Captain Fallas and your crew for taking the time to rescue four tangled leatherback sea turtles this season. Your effort is an example of how we all have the power to make the oceans a better place for everyone to enjoy.
 

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Pretoma is a Costa Rican civil association of public interest and is an active member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

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    COSTA  RICAN  LONGLINE  FISHERMAN  SAVES  4  LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLES, FIGHTS FOR HOURS TO SAVE EVERY ONE Selfless Act Of Marine Conservation By Costa Rican Fishermen Will Result In Thousands Of Potential Turtle Hatchlings (January 14, 2009 San José, Costa Rica) – Captian Rafael Fallas and his crew aboard the fishing vessel...