Renewing Hope for Critically Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles in El Salvador

Sofía Chavarría transfers eggs to protected hatchery. Photo by Allison Shelley for WEA

Renewing Hope for Critically Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles in El Salvador

Bioregion Central American Mixed Forests (NT25)
Category Nature Conservation

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Central America

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$$$

$$$$ indicates a project between $250,000-$1 million.

Partner Wild Earth Allies

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The One Earth Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture. This project protects hawksbill sea turtles and their nesting grounds through community-led action.

Hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered worldwide, with fewer than 700 females remaining in the eastern Pacific. In El Salvador, 50% of nesting occurs, making the country vital for their recovery in the region. However, in 2007, hawksbills were considered extirpated from the area due to rampant nest poaching.

Currently, the joint efforts of Wild Earth Allies (WEA) and ProCosta, a women-led Salvadoran NGO, have transformed 100% nest-poaching into near-total protection, releasing tens of thousands of hatchlings into the sea each year. This project supports the recovery of the eastern Pacific hawksbill turtle population while enhancing community well-being.

Nesting female. Photo by Allison Shelley for WEA

Protecting sea turtles and supporting Salvadorans

This project will safeguard over 300 nests, help release more than 30,000 hatchlings, and financially benefit 130 community members involved in conservation efforts. Additionally, it will provide 30 artisanal lobster fishers with improved fishing gear to reduce hawksbill bycatch.

Moreover, the annual hawksbill festival organized by ProCosta engages seven communities, creating an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of conserving these sea turtles.

Hatchery. Photo by Allison Shelley for WEA.

Uniting the community in conservation

ProCosta's guiding principle is "Somos Un Equipo," or "We Are One Team." Following this mantra, hundreds of community members, including former poachers, play an integral role in protecting nesting beaches.

This collaboration dramatically improves nest protection rates and offers valuable income for communities. One survey discovered that Hawksbill conservation network members earned 16% more annual household income through their participation.

Ani Henríquez. Photo by Eastward Films for WEA

A partnership in preserving biodiversity

Led by Ani Henríquez, ProCosta has protected sea turtles and aquatic biodiversity in El Salvador through community-based conservation for over fifteen years. To date, the organization and coastal residents have defended over 3,000 hawksbill nests, identified 400 nesting females, and released more than 250,000 hatchlings into the sea.

Established in 1981, WEA envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy ecosystems that sustain us all. For many years, their partnership with ProCosta has contributed to the recovery of marine life.

Hawksbill eggs. Photo by Allison Shelley for WEA.

Scaling to safeguard all marine life

The long-term goal is to further enhance protections for marine habitats and at-risk wildlife. In support of this, WEA and ProCosta are expanding to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in El Salvador. MPAs will reduce hawksbill bycatch, improve the health of ocean ecosystems, and boost the sustainability of artisanal fisheries.

Releasing hatchlings. Photo by Allison Shelley for WEA

Saving sea turtles is good for the planet

Sea turtles play a crucial role in maintaining thriving marine habitats, including seagrass beds and coral reefs, which effectively absorb and store carbon. Protecting hawksbill sea turtles through this project can preserve these critical environments' carbon sequestration capabilities while uplifting communities.

Hatchlings. Photo by Eastward Films for WEA

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Your contribution will help ensure the long term success of this important project. Gifts can be made as a tribute to a friend or family member and are tax-deductible for U.S. residents. Please contact us!