Paso Pacífico is strengthening its partnerships with the local fishermen...
Paso Pacífico is strengthening its partnerships with the local fishermen...

Paso Pacífico is strengthening its partnerships with the local fishermen in the Paso del Itsmo Biological Corridor. This year, through the ELLAS Initiative, we have helped to provide organizational training and legal support to the Pablo Rene Collado Dive Cooperative. This partnership has enabled this group of spear fishermen to gain legal status and better coordinate the marketing and sale of their seafood. Paso Pacífico is now focusing its efforts on providing tourism training to this group so that they may diversify its service to include reef diving tours.

In February, we carried out workshops in Ostional with the participation of 64 local community members including fishermen and dive fishermen. During this workshop we presented two short films in Spanish about the impacts of dynamite fishing and the National Police also presented about the laws governing illegal dynamite fishing. The local fishermen vowed to keep dynamite fishing out of their nearby waters.

We also have been working in partnership with two local fishing cooperatives to carry out catch surveys. These surveys conducted at the end of each fishing day, gather information about fishing technology, the commercial fish captured, and by-catch (fish and other sea life caught accidentally). The good news is that local fishermen demonstrate a conservation ethic. Through our surveys we recorded the accidental catch and successful rescue and live release of four endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Not all the information gathered from these surveys has been positive. We documented the death of Olive Ridley turtles killed and the damage to living coral as a result of gill nets.

Donors and partners that contribute to our work with these fisheries include the Inter-American Development Bank's Multi-Lateral Investment Fund, the Woodtiger Fund, and the Waitt Foundation. Paso Pacífico will continue to work with the fishermen and divers of Ostional to decrease the impact of fisheries on coral reef communities and to develop alternative incomes in the tourism sector.

Paso Pacifico's parot conservation program was recently featured by the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. The great news is that artificial nests we installed three years ago were finally accepted by a pair of yellow-naped Amazon parrots, and these birds successfully reared three young parrots. This development provides new hope for saving this species which has experienced dramatic population declines across Centra America.
Yellow-naped Amazon parrots are well loved by Nicaraguans because of their excellent vocalization abilities. The national attention garnered by this project will assist us in gaining public support for parrot conservation across the country. Our partners at the US Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry were instrumental in helping us to access this media attention. Other project partners such as the Loro Parque Fundación have helped us to sustain our parrot conservation efforts through the years. Photo by: Orlando Jarquín

Last month, the women at the Smiling Oyster Cooperative in Ostional, Nicaragua received technical assistance from expert ocean farmer Bernard Friedman. This experienced ocean entrepreneur helped the women in Nicaragua to design a new open-water system for recruiting and growing oysters.
When Bernard is not providing assistance to other aquaculture upstarts, he works as an ocean farmer in Santa Barbara, California where he runs Hope Ranch Farm, California's only open ocean farm growing mussels and other shellfish. His nutritiuous and sustainably grown mussels are available at Whole Food Markets across California.
Paso Pacifico's California staff recently visited Bernard on his boat Perservence (pictured above) to discuss techniques for applying shellfish aquaculture as a tool for ocean conservation. We are grateful to Hope Ranch Farms and for the opportunity to channel Bernard's expertise to the women fishers of Nicaragua. 
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Mercedes Peñalba has recently joined the team as our sea turtle conservation program manager. She was trained in biology at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua - Leon where she completed her thesis focused on sea turtle reproductive biology. She carried out this work in collaboration with Paso Pacífico where we were able to see her strong work ethic and organizational skills.

This past year Mercedes worked with Paso Pacífico to implement catch surveys with the local fishermen and during this process she developed friendships with fishermen and families across the Ostional village. Mercedes now works closely with our sea turtle rangers to plan patrols, organize data, and review the daily results of our sea turtle protection program. 

We are thrilled to have Mercedes as part of the team! 

Our "Turtle Friend" Kickstarter campaign led by 8-year olds Jonas and Matson was a huge success! The school community at Oak Grove School in Ojai, California played a huge role in making this possible. When launching the campaign, Jonas and Matson shared their plan to help sea turtles with their classmates. Many of these schoolchildren then jumped in to help with the fundraiser. 
In addition, friends and families from across this community gave generously to the campaign and also used their social networks to promote it. The Oak Grove Parent Council even made a contribution to help us to meet our fundraising goal. 
Paso Pacifico is grateful to the Oak Grove School and its incredible community for its support. Visit our blog to learn more about this collaboration. 
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