UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sea turtles and paper parks in a Nicaraguan small scale fishery Cutting, Allison


The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) experienced a global population decline of about 30% over two generations. Threats include direct take of turtle eggs for human consumption and indirect take of adults via incidental catch in fishing gear, known as bycatch. Chacocente beach in Nicaragua is one of ten mass nesting sites for olive ridleys in the world. The shore of Chacocente is under military protection and the surrounding waters are part of an established marine protected area (MPA). In the neighboring community of El Astillero, 60% of households are economically dependent on fishing. Fishers expressed concern for turtle bycatch in gillnets and managers expressed concern for uncontrolled fishing; however, bycatch in this region has not been quantified. This study examines bycatch in reference to the protected area’s design logics to understand whether management strategies have encouraged the desired fisher behavior and outcomes as concerns olive ridleys. Through document analysis, we derived four unintentional assumptions that seem to inform management design. We then compared these unintentional assumptions to 586 net set observations conducted in 2019. Results showed 24 turtles were caught inside the MPA, 24 turtles caught outside the MPA, with 0.04 and 0.03 turtles caught per 100 meters of net, respectively. While bycatch is similar inside and outside the MPA, revealing a lack of compliance with MPA boundaries, bycatch varied greatly between targeted species and month, with relatively high proportions of bycatch occurring in the snook fishery and in September. Such variance is not accounted for in regulations. To build quality protection in practice – not quantity of parks on paper – we aim to improve understanding of fishing interactions at-sea and make recommendations for management design that work for both sea turtle populations and fisher livelihood security.

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