WHO WE ARE
We are a community-led non-profit organization, which was initially founded to study and protect the sea turtles nesting and feeding within the National Wildlife Refuge Gandoca-Manzanillo (REGAMA), but we are interested in a general and global approach to conservation efforts.
REGAMA, our main operation site, harbours the two small communities of Gandoca and Manzanillo, as well as populations of three endangered sea turtle species that are nesting at its beaches and feed in its coral reefs and seagrass beds, the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).
The community of Gandoca is economically mainly depending on the near-by banana plantations and subsistence farming, whereas Manzanillo is a small artisanal fishing community that in recent years has become a popular tourist destination. However, some members of both communities are still poaching eggs and turtles to eat and sell, and turtles are killed accidentally in fishing gear.
Our mission is to prevent the extinction of sea turtles and secure their existence in future by studying endangered sea turtle populations in Costa Rica and protecting them from detrimental human activities, combining local knowledge with applied science and engaging and activating local stakeholders, such as adjacent communities, fishermen, and the next generation.
Our goal is to safeguard sea turtle populations and their habitat by collecting data on their activities, conducting nightly patrols to prevent poaching, engaging in environmental outreach, and implementing capacity-building activities for local communities. Our activities are meant to mitigate and counteract the direct and indirect threats faced by sea turtles such as the exploitive use of adults and eggs through poaching, incidental catch by fisheries, the ingestion and entanglement as a result of ocean plastic pollution, and the effects on clutch and hatching success, as well as sex ratios because of sea-level rise and rising temperatures due to climate change.
FOUNDING STORY OF COASTS
Historically, the small community Gandoca is known for a successful community-based sea turtle conservation project. From 1985 until 2011 a project that was monitoring the sea turtle nesting activities was lead by the Costa Rican Asociación ANAI (later WIDECAST Costa Rica). However, due to a lack of funding and internal conflicts, the project was suspended and there had been no active monitoring of sea turtle activity in REGAMA for several years.
In 2014, several residents of Gandoca with a background and interest in sea turtle conservation came together to find a way of reviving the monitoring and protection of sea turtles within REGAMA. This was the birth of the Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtle Conservation & Science (COASTS).
THE GANDOCA-MANZANILLO WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge (REGAMA) is located in the very South of the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica and is known for its rich biodiversity and pristine habitats. REGAMA still has one of the last patches of primary rain forest and a large area of mangroves. It also harbours three resident sea turtle species that are using REGAMA as feeding and nesting site, hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). The nesting habitat within REGAMA encompasses 9.8 km of beach adjacent to the community of Gandoca, and several smaller playitas between Gandoca and Manzanillo. REGAMA also harbours coral reefs and seagrass beds, which are popular feeding sites for hawksbills and greens of different life stages.