The Covid-19 pandemic has forced ARCAS to cancel its volunteer and intern program. These volunteers and interns are key to the success of its sea turtle and mangrove conservation efforts at the Hawaii Park on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. This project will sponsor beach patrols and nest collection with local guides and school groups to increase the numbers of sea turtle eggs rescued and incubated at the Hawaii Hatchery. The nesting season runs from July through December.
Sea turtle eggs are a traditional source of protein and income for impoverished residents of the Guatemalan Pacific coast. Under a government-sponsored scheme, egg collectors can harvest olive ridley nests if a percentage of each nest is donated to a local hatchery. ARCAS has worked with local communities to develop tourism as an alternative to egg collecting. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this tourism to a halt, threatening the livelihood of residents and the survival of the sea turtle.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, ARCAS cannot expect support from tourism and volunteers in its sea turtle conservation efforts in the Hawaii area and it is shifting its focus to community work. This project will support community guides and school groups in conducting egg collection patrols and managing the Hawaii Hatchery. Egg-collection activities are combined with other sustainable community development efforts including environmental education, gender and health.
In 2016, ARCAS succeeded in having Hawaii declared a marine protected area. The long-term impact of this project lies in working with local communities to sustainably manage the natural resources that serve as the basis for the local subsistence economy. Tourism is growing rapidly in the area, and if managed correctly offers a sustainable alternative to extractive practices of the past. Local residents need training and support in successfully transitioning to this new economy.