Proyecto Laúd coordinates the conservation activities for the leatherback turtle on 4 index beaches of the Mexican Pacific, combining efforts of different government and nongovernment institutions. With more than 20 years of tagging and conservation data, this project represents the most solid source of knowledge about the biology and ecology of the leatherback turtle in Mexico. Daily nesting track counts done from 1982 to 2004 showed a declining trend for the number of leatherback nests on the 4 index beaches of the Mexican Pacific (Mexiquillo, Tierra Colorada, Cahuitán, and Barra de la Cruz). The worst nesting season was 2002–2003, in which only 120 leatherback nests were recorded on the index beaches combined. The decline is attributed to a combination of extensive egg harvest on all Mexican Pacific beaches before conservation activities and high mortality of large adults in pelagic fisheries. A total of 5314 females were individually identified since 1982; the average remigration interval is 3 years, and there is evidence of interchange of females between some beaches. The female population has an average curved carapace length of 143.8 cm and an average clutch size of 62 eggs. The average estimated clutch frequency is 5.5 ± 1.9, with an average clutch interval of 9.7 ± 1.2 days. From 1982 to 2004 a total of 270,129 leatherback hatchlings were released to the wild population. This comparatively small number was not enough to offset the mortality of juveniles and adults offshore. This may explain the continuing population decline in spite of 20 years of protection activities. Currently, hope for the future of the population relies on the protection of at least 80% of the clutches laid on the priority beaches, the participation of local communities in conservation activities, and increased awareness of the leatherback's status among Mexican society.
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Vol. 6 • No. 1