The olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), a species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, is characterized by its mass-nesting behavior, also known as arribada. For decades, this phenomenon has facilitated the utilization of this species by coastal communities, much of it illegally. At Ostional beach, Costa Rica, a community-based egg-harvest program operates legally to generate important income for the community while promoting the protection of the ridley nesting assemblage. However, to date, no analysis exists that indicates the long-term viability of the egg harvest program as a sound management tool. To address this void, we generated baseline abundance data of the major arribada events that occurred in the period 2006–2010, as well as egg harvest data, along with preliminary hatching success. Arribadas ranged between 3564 and 476,550 egg-laying females, which indicated a large variability in the magnitude of the mass nesting events. Estimated mean egg harvest was 4746.4 and ranged from 1527 to 8138 total clutches. In relation to the estimated number of clutches laid, the estimated mean of clutches harvested was 21.2%, ranging from 1.5% to 102.4%. Estimated monthly mean hatching rates ranged from 0.0% to 32.6%. It is not clear whether arribadas underwent a significant change in abundance during the study period, although the number of years covered is too short to establish a long-term trend. However, when compared with historical data, the population appears to have declined. Based on our data, we present various management recommendations aimed at increasing hatching rates.
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Vol. 11 • No. 1