Building positive links between the Ostional community and the conservation of Olive ridley sea turtles

Norma Rodríguez
Published: 29 May 2017
Last edited: 01 April 2019
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Ostional Wildlife Refuge is the second largest beach nesting site of Olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in the world. With the simultaneous arrival of hundreds of turtles to the beach of Ostional, high mortality of eggs was observed due to over-excavation, illegal poaching of eggs and natural causes. This promoted the creation of the Refuge and the design of a project where government institutions and the community jointly implemented actions to improve the conditions of habitat protection and a regulated use of turtle eggs is permitted.



Central America
Scale of implementation
Coastal forest
Deep sea
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Access and benefit sharing
Coastal and marine spatial management
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals


National Wildlife Refuge Ostional, Ostional, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica
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high mortality of turtle eggs due to over-excavation, illegal poaching of eggs and natural causes


Inhabitants of Ostional and neighboring communities
Ostional National Wildlife Refuge
Costa Rica university
National System of Conservation Areas
Olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea)

How do the building blocks interact?

The planning committee and management composed of ADIO, INCOPESCA, SINAC and the University of Costa Rica are jointly involved in action planning and project evalution. Some activities are performed jointly, others are performed separately, but always in pursuit of implementing the management plan. All contributions of the sectors are important in learning and empowerment. Representatives of ADIO give a fundamental contribution in volunteer hours. The contribution of the research is critical to ensure that the actions taken, but especially the use of the resource, are not hurting the nesting population. The contribution of INCOPESCA and SINAC is essential to ensure legality of the project, decreasing illegal extraction and sales of eggs.


Under new management practices the stakeholders made significant progress in all areas of management planning. Recognition of the community of Ostional for environmental protection and better protection of nesting turtles is increased. 

Advances in research include various topics related to the state of the population and the development of a methodology to accurately count transects of turtle population "arrivals", which is now used worldwide.


The project provides social development benefits: 110 families are actively involved.

Benefits include:

  • Scholarships to students.
  • Equitable family income distribution.
  • Support for older adults.
  • Infrastructure development (roads, bridges, school, health center).
  • Conservation impact: approximately 15 million turtles hatch each year. 









Gerardo  Chaves

In Costa Rica in 1970, aerial surveys showed that there were two mass nesting beaches for Olive ridley sea turtles, one of them being Playa Ostional Beach. Both are now protected areas and managed by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE). However only the National Wildlife Refuge Ostional has allowed a project that integrates the main objective of conservation of these species, while still allowing the use of eggs under certain circumstances, times and amounts. This ensures that the community may have a direct benefit of the resource, without losing sight of the main goal which is to preserve the nesting habitat of the sea turtles. Overall the roles of all participants are defined, goals are set and adaptive management of the marine protected area is performed under the existing conditions. This management approach has improved the understanding of the whole context of human-environment relationships. Through annual planning between the institutions of government and the community, economic and operational resources of both parties are optimized, which has improved the conservation of turtles and their eggs. Marine protected areas as Ostional can provide benefits like these, but also fishing or turtle watching activities without compromising the conservation objectives for the coastal marine ecosystems. Therein lies the success of conservation in Ostional.

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Other contributors

National System of Conservation Areas
National System of Conservation Areas
Integral Development Association of Ostional (ADIO)
University of Costa Rica