Endangered Hawksbill turtle returns to Akumal after 15-year absence

Despite sargassum, no incidents of stranded sea turtles have been reported

Photographed at night under a red light, a hawksbill sea turtle in Akumal represents a comeback. Photo: Sipse
Photographed at night under a red light, a hawksbill sea turtle in Akumal represents a comeback. Photo: Sipse

Solidaridad, Quintana Roo —  After disappearing 15 years ago, the hawksbill sea turtle has returned to spawn again on the shores of Akumal.

The news was cheered by staff who run a sea-turtle protection program in this part of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Maribel Escobedo Mondragón, a veterinary medicine teacher specializing in marine turtles, said that the hawksbills’ return is a very special event and of great relevance.

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“Its arrival on the coasts is an extraordinary event and one that gives hope for its conservation in other places in the Mexican Caribbean,” said the Ecological Center of Akumal worker.

On May 20, 26 turtle nests are counted, all but one belonging to loggerhead turtles.

Bahía Media Luna beach has four loggerhead turtle nests as does at Bahía de Akumal and Akumal Sur beaches. On Tortugas beach, 13 loggerhead and hawksbill nests are in place.

Considered to be among the most beautiful of sea turtles for their colorful shells, the hawksbill is found in tropical waters around the world. That beautiful shell is why the hawksbill population has declined more than 80 percent in the last century. The shell is used for items such as jewelry, combs and brushes, and inlay in furniture and other decorative pieces.

Hawksbills were hunted almost to extinction prior to the ban on the tortoiseshell trade; Japan imported an estimated 2 million turtles between 1950 and 1992. Despite the fact that the international trade of their shells is now illegal, there is still a thriving black market.

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To date there is no record of nesting green sea turtles in Akumal.

Biologists Guadalupe Beristain Rodríguez and María Fernanda Alemán Gutiérrez, who are also on the marine turtle conservation and protection team, explained that care of the environment for the spawning, conservation and protection of the turtles is of paramount importance.

Beaches should be kept dark and noise-free at night when turtles are in nesting season. Visitors should keep at least four meters away and keep animals at bay. Litter could hinder their passage from the nest to the sea.

The specialists noted that despite the arrival of sargassum in Akumal, no incidents of stranded sea turtles have been reported.

With information from La Jornada Maya

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