Drawing on the successes of the ecotourism industry at Tortuguero, Costa Rica where turtle-based tourism now provides economic incentives for local people to protect rather than eat turtles, the Asociación de Pescadores de Cieneguita y Portete (ASCIENPE) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), worked with the turtle fishers and vendors to plan an ecotourism project to replace and hopefully exceed the revenues generated by the consumptive turtle trade of Limón.
In 2002, the planning phase of the project was completed, to plan and determine the amount of funding required for full project implementation. Financial support was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Firedoll Foundation for this activity. Concepto Visual Integrado, an architectural consulting group, was hired to work with ASCIENPE and STC in the preparation of an integrated social, technical and economic feasibility study and pre-proposal. Beneficiary groups participated in the planning process via consultative meetings. The resulting master plan recommendations and funding requirements.
The Cooperative Agreement for the Conservation of Sea Turtles of the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, otherwise known as the Tripartite Agreement, was signed by the Presidents of Costa Rica and Panama on Friday, May 8, 1998. The signing ceremony, which was attended by several staff and Board members of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, took place during the inauguration ceremonies for Costa Rica’s newly elected President, Miguel Angel Rodríguez. The President of Nicaragua did not attend the ceremony; however, it is anticipated that Nicaragua will sign the Agreement in the very near future.
STC, the Mesoamerican Environmental Law Program (MELP) at the Uni-versity of Florida, the National Resource Law Center of San Jose, Costa Rica, the Center for International Environmental Law, Central American government officials, indigenous peoples and sea turtle specialists worked together to develop a model agreement for the regional management of Caribbean sea turtles. A draft of the agreement was completed in 1997. Since then, the STC and MELP, with assistance from the Wildlife Conservation Society and funding from USAID, have facilitated a series of negotiation workshops involving natural resource managers from each of the three countries. The negotiations reached a successful conclusion recently in Panama, and the final agreement was forwarded to the Presidents of each country for signing.
The need for cooperative management of Caribbean sea turtles between the three nations has been recognized for more than 30 years. STC’s first technical director and renowned sea turtle specialist Dr. Archie Carr, and his Costa Rican colleague Guillermo “Billy” Cruz, helped convince natural resource management and fishery officials from the three countries to sign a tri-national agreement for the protection of sea turtles in 1969. But the process broke down before the agreement could be ratified when Nicaragua acquired funding for the construction of three processing plants to prepare green turtle meat for export. Legal export of sea turtles and their derivatives ceased in 1975, but current harvest levels for subsistence use now rival those from the days when green turtles supplied a global market with meat and soup. The need for international cooperation in sea turtle management is still required, as there would be little incentive for one nation to protect turtles that are then harvested without restraint after they migrate across borders.
The new cooperative agreement requires the Parties to work together to protect sea turtle habitats--marine habitats as well as nesting beaches--and to develop and execute a Regional Management Plan to provide guidelines and criteria for a tri-national protected area system for the turtles. This will effectively establish a coastal and marine biological corridor or “blueway” in the western Caribbean for sea turtles.