The few, critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles that still arrive in Costa Rica during nesting season may stop coming here altogether due to climate change. In the 21st century, hawksbills have barely arrived on the beaches of the Pacific coast. On the Caribbean shores, the number of Eretmochelys imbricata nests at the Cahuita National Park has been dwindling over the last few years despite strong efforts to protect them; regrettably, there’s not much conservationists can do to stop beaches from disappearing.
As migratory marine species, sea turtles can be quite picky when it comes to nesting. From sea currents to surf conditions and from the beach topography to the chemical makeup of the sand, sea turtles seek the perfect conditions for nesting. Hawksbill turtles have been enjoying protection by conservationists and park rangers at the Cahuita shoreline in the Caribbean province of Limon since the late 1970s. With irresponsible commercial fishing practices and poaching decimating hawksbills around the world, sea turtle advocates in Cahuita are well aware that their mission is crucial to the survival of this species.
According to an IPS news report by Diego Arguedas for El Pais, hawksbills may be shying away from nesting in Cahuita because the beach is getting too cramped. Park administrator Mario Cerdas explained to IPS that the eight kilometers of beaches in Cahuita are getting reduced due to erosion and rising sea levels. The beaches along this Caribbean stretch of coastline in Costa Rica are nesting sites not just for hawksbills but also leatherbacks, loggerheads, and green sea turtles.
Hawksbills are certainly feeling the effects of climate change in Cahuita, and they are choosing to nest outside of the National Park where they are not protected. There’s another problem as well: Rising temperatures at the beach means more female baby turtles than males will hatch. This may sound like an ideal situation for an endangered species, at least initially; nonetheless, when hawksbills realize that this breeding disparity continues season after season, they will switch to another nesting spot.