School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Turtle conservation in Costa Rica

Reports of continued reductions in sea turtle populations during the last 20 years have intensified conservation efforts throughout the world. The depletion of stocks is primarily attributable to human activities including active hunting of turtles, poaching of sea turtle eggs, and accidental entrapment in fishing gear. Although there has been a shift towards non-consumptive use in recent years - e.g. by ecotourism generating income for local communities without depleting turtle populations - illegal consumptive use of sea turtles continues in many developing countries such as Costa Rica.

Ensuring compliance with regulations is at the heart of the problem, but simplistic solutions such as coercive deterrence are often chosen without sufficient research. To examine robustly the factors affecting compliance rates, evidence-based, inter-disciplinary research is needed.

This project is researching sea turtle conservation on the Osa Peninsula, southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, using both social science and ecological science techniques. Social scientific methods will be employed to investigate both local stakeholders’ motivations towards compliance, and Costa Rican governance structures that determine conservation policy and management and their influences on compliance rates. Ecological research will obtain data regarding nesting and foraging behaviour of sea turtle populations in the area, and evidence of human poaching behaviour will be examined. Through integrating the social scientific with the ecological data we aim to produce a fuller understanding of the reasons for non-compliance with conservation regulations, a first step towards finding a sustainable solution to the problem of poaching turtles and their eggs.