An analysis of 22 years of data on hawksbill turtles in the Arnavons, located in the Solomon Islands, shows signs of recovery after 150 years of excessive hunting by natives.

The data included both beach counts and turtle tagging data and show a 200% increase from record lows in the 1990s, when the turtles had been hunted to the brink of extinction. Many of the hawksbill turtles that nest at the Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area forage in distant Australian waters, and nesting on the Arnavons occurs throughout the year, with peak nesting activity coinciding with the austral winter. 

Credit: The Nature Conservancy

“Turtles are at 10% of their numbers they were at a century ago, and roughly only one out of every 1,000 turtle eggs make it to adulthood,” said Richard Hamilton, Melanesia Program Director, The Nature Conservancy and lead author of a paper on the rebound. “This remarkable recovery shows that changes in policy, inclusive community-based management, and long-term commitment can turn the tide for one of the most charismatic and endangered species on our planet.” 

Located in the world’s epicenter of marine diversity, the Solomon Islands is home to vibrant coral reefs and thousands of fish species, as well as important nesting beaches for critically endangered leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles.  To promote a recovery without putting local people on welfare, The Nature Conservancy worked with local communities and governments to create networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that support biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods. They also promoted ways to diversify beyond turtle hunting, such as ecotourism and sustainable fisheries. 

Citation: Hamilton RJ, Bird T, Gereniu C, Pita J, Ramohia PC, et al. (2015) Solomon Islands Largest Hawksbill Turtle Rookery Shows Signs of Recovery after 150 Years of Excessive Exploitation. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121435. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0121435