Guatemala’s lush pacific coastline, home to a vast array of both flora and fauna, has recently been plagued by a tragic slew of turtle deaths that has dotted beaches on the country’s southeast coast.
Since the first week of July at least 80 dead sea turtles have washed ashore on the beaches of La Barrona, Las Lisas, Chapeton and Hawaii, according to a statement released by the Guatemalan non-profit Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Association (ARCAS).
Experts cite the duel threat of underfunded, undermanned hatcheries and shrimp trawlers fishing close to shore.
"Many projects are lacking in the key elements necessary for the present community-based conservation system to function successfully," said Colum Muccio, ARCAS administrative director, according to the Guardian newspaper.
“I don't think it's a coincidence that when shrimp trawlers appear in the ocean that we begin having stranded turtles," he added.
While Guatemalan trawlers are supposed to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs), Muccio said this is difficult to enforce and fines are very light.
"We are currently working on instituting a ban on bottom trawling," he said. "This has recently been done in Belize, Costa Rica and Ecuador, and El Salvador doesn't allow them closer than three miles from shore."
A petition has been presented to the government of Guatemala by conservationists and researchers asking the government to take action to protect these turtles, including monitoring of shrimp trawlers to establish the impact on marine turtle populations.
"Sea turtles are also very much part of the identity of the local culture and local communities often take pride in their hatcheries and their contributions to save the sea turtle," Muccio said.