More than 200 million olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings have been released over the past six years on La Escobilla beach - in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca - as part of a government conservation program, Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said.
The number of olive ridley hatchlings on La Escobilla has increased from less than 200,000 in 1973 to 1.5 million in 2012, an indication that species is making a strong recovery, the federal official said.
The La Escobilla sanctuary is considered the place with the world's highest number of olive ridley hatchlings, and it serves as the nesting spot for 95 percent of all sea turtles of that species that nest in Mexico, Elvira Quesada said.
After conducting a tour of that area to supervise conservation work, Elvira Quesada said that under the administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon, who took office on Dec. 1, 2006, more than 200 million olive ridley hatchlings have been released, many of which will return to the same beach in three decades to deposit their eggs.
Efforts to protect female turtles and their nests and release hatchlings are carried out under the National Sea Turtle Conservation Program, Elvira Quesada said.
Ten of the nesting beaches are natural protected areas, or ANPs, that hold the category of sanctuary, three of them located inside another ANP such as a biosphere reserve, and 15 of them are included on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance.
Mexico's government has spent more than 143 million pesos (nearly $11 million) to support projects that combat threats to sea turtles, as well as to cover the operating costs of mobile camps, equipment and salaries, the environment secretary said.
Other funds support communities that help protect the turtles, including 47.5 million pesos and 23.7 million pesos ($3.6 million and $1.8 million), respectively, allocated through the Temporary Employment and Conservation for Sustainable Development programs.
Turtle egg extraction has been illegal in Mexico since 1927, while a total, permanent ban on the capture and sale of sea turtles and their products throughout Mexico has been in place since 1990.