The Sea Turtles of Mexico’s Pacific coast

Sea Turtles have lived on this earth an estimated 150 million years. There are seven species of these charismatic reptiles in the world, five of which live long periods of their lives foraging and nesting along the coasts of Pacific Mexico. These turtles migrate from as far away as Japan, and Hawaii.

photo: Wendy Rains
Baby turtle released on its way to the ocean

The west coasts of Mexico are home to five of the seven species of the world’s sea turtles. The majority of those nesting along the Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit coastline are:

Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea, Tortuga Golfina)
The most abundant of all of the species of sea turtle, they use the beaches in up and down the coast for reproduction. They frequent the bays, estuaries and pelagic zones of the region for feeding. One nest can contain as many as 100 eggs!

Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea, Tortuga Laúd)
The largest of all the species of sea turtles can be found throughout the world’s oceans. Population data for these turtles indicate that they are confronting a grave problem of global extinction.
Sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered in every part of the world, and are included on protection lists such as CITES, the IUCN’s Red List, the InterAmerican Convention, and the United Status list of Endangered Species. International regulations have been established that prohibit capturing, killing or selling of sea turtles, and the federal laws of Mexico prohibit their killing throughout all parts of the country.

Additionally, due to the large amount of turtles that are captured in the nets of shrimp and fishing boats, laws have been established in the U.S. and Mexico requiring that all trawling vessels use TEDs (Turtle Exclusionary Devices), which allow turtles to escape the nets.

The two biggest threats to our sea turtles’ survival are 1) Coastal Development, and 2) Ocean Pollution.

Development along the coast causes loss of precious coastal habitat that previously served as nesting areas. Any new lights along the coast also disorient the turtles when they return to the shore where they were born, to lay their eggs. If there is no longer a beach, or the beach is developed, the turtle may not lay her eggs.

Sea turtles can choke to death when they accidentally consume plastic bags and other types of trash, often mistaken for jellyfish, a part of some sea turtle species diet. Additionally, contaminants and chemicals entering the ocean from inland runoff or dumped from ships, seriously affect their health.

Although they are protected, sea turtles need our help. They are regularly captured and sacrificed for the consumption of their meat and eggs. They mature very slowly and live very long lives. They reach twenty to thirty years of age before they are sexually mature and able to reproduce.

The Mexican agency in charge of protecting turtles is PROFEPA. If you witness illegal activities, contact their regional office. Toll free number within Mexico: 01.800.687.8477 Toll free number in the U.S.:1.866.SEA.TIPS