news-150423-1-operation-jairo-logo-300wQCOSTARICA (Seasheperd.org) – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Sea Shepherd) announced the sea turtle defense campaign Operation Jairo, to take place this summer in three regions critical to nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings – southeastern Florida, Honduras and Costa Rica.

Last season, Sea Shepherd was involved in sea turtle defense campaigns in Costa Rica, Honduras and Cape Verde, where nearly 10,000 sea turtles were released to the ocean, providing them with a safe head start.

Among the sites to be patrolled by Sea Shepherd volunteers this season is Playa Moín in Costa Rica’s Limón province, the site of the tragic murder of young turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval. In honor of his work to protect the turtles he cherished so deeply, Sea Shepherd has named both a vessel and this upcoming campaign after him.

Sea Shepherd’s Operation Jairo campaign will span the peak nesting or hatching months for sea turtles in all three locations, in an effort to save as many hatchlings as possible – giving the next generations of these endangered species a fighting chance at survival.

Six of seven species of sea turtles are on the brink of extinction. The odds are against these endangered marine animals from the start, with an average of only one in 1,000 hatchlings surviving to adulthood. These marine species have endured long enough to see the dinosaurs evolve and become extinct – yet today they are being quickly wiped out by poaching and other human-induced threats.

While poaching is the single biggest threat they are facing, sea turtles are often accidentally caught as by-catch in fishing operations and many die from ingesting plastic and other marine debris. Additionally, turtle meat and eggs are regularly consumed by some cultures as food, and even considered a delicacy. The black-market demand for tortoiseshell used for decorative purposes and supposed health benefits is contributing further to this gentle creature’s demise.

A loggerhead sea turtle heads back to the ocean after laying her eggs. Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon Ager
A loggerhead sea turtle heads back to the ocean after laying her eggs. Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon Ager

In southeastern Florida, Sea Shepherd will be working with Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (S.T.O.P.), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting sea turtles in Broward County, Florida. From mid-July to mid-September, volunteers will ensure that sea turtle hatchlings make it safely to the ocean from their nests on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.

Hatchling turtles in Broward County become disoriented by improper lighting from public-owned fixtures, businesses and condominiums along the beaches, causing them to head away from the sea where they could die from dehydration or onto dangerous and busy roadways where they get crushed by cars. Along with conducting patrols of the beaches, Sea Shepherd will collaborate with S.T.O.P in its efforts to ensure that Broward County municipalities adhere to and enforce current lighting ordinances put in place to protect these endangered creatures.

From May 31st until September, Sea Shepherd will patrol nightly to protect three endangered turtle species – hawksbill, green and loggerhead – in Honduras, as we did in 2014. Here, as in Costa Rica, sea turtles are at risk from poachers in search of nesting turtles to kill them for meat and sell their eggs, which is illegal in Honduras. Meeting with Sea Shepherd Campaign Coordinator, Dave Hance last year, Utila Mayor Troy Bodden vowed to arrest and fully prosecute anyone in violation of the turtle protection laws and has pledged his 100 percent support of Sea Shepherd and its efforts.

Returning to Costa Rica following 2014 anti-poaching campaign Operation Pacuare – which resulted in nearly 3,000 sea turtles saved – Sea Shepherd will once again protect hawksbill, green and leatherback sea turtles from poachers on Pacuare Beach in Costa Rica’s Limón province from May 31st until September. This year, Operation Jairo will see Sea Shepherd volunteers standing watch along Moin Beach, patrolling in the footsteps of Jairo Mora Sandoval for his beloved sea turtles. Sandoval was murdered on May 31, 2013 while protecting sea turtle nests, and is widely believed to have been killed by poachers.

Sea turtles are protected by law in Costa Rica, but poaching remains commonplace. Locals take eggs, which are believed to be an aphrodisiac, and sell them on the black market. The turtle egg trade has been linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. In the wake of Jairo’s death, the organization he worked with canceled beach patrol efforts in Costa Rica. However, Sea Shepherd has vowed not to leave the turtles of Moin Beach unprotected and to continue the important work begun by Jairo Mora.

Sea Shepherd is now accepting applications for dedicated and passionate volunteers in all three campaign locations.

The organization is seeking volunteers who are at least 18 years of age and who are able to commit to participating in the campaign for a period of two weeks or longer.

Sea Shepherd is also seeking volunteers with training and/or a professional background in videography and photography to assist with campaign media production, and those who are fluent in Spanish. Anyone interested in joining Operation Jairo, should please visit: http://www.seashepherd.org/get-involved/ground-crew.html.


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