Hunting green turtles for traditional Nicaraguan Caribbean cuisine:

After hours of work aboard small sailboats, fishermen from the Miskito ethnic group capture huge green turtles (Chelonia mydas), an endangered species, whose consumption is exceptionally authorized in the Nicaraguan Caribbean, in their nets. as part of the traditional gastronomy of the communities.

Fishermen from the Caribbean community of Sandy Bay go in search of chelonian and other marine life in homemade wooden boats designed to operate like sailboats because they cannot afford the fuel of a motorboat.

Once at sea, they cast their nets into the warm waters of the Caribbean, where after five hours of waiting, they catch a hundred sea turtles, whose meat they will later sell for consumption in the market of Bilwi, the main town in northern Nicaragua. Caribbean.

These chelonians, which can measure a meter and a half long and weigh more than 180 kilos, are sold on the Caribbean market for 5,000 córdobas each (138 dollars), depending on their size.

According to traders, the turtle is sold for 60 córdobas per pound (less than two dollars per half kilo) and its consumption is common only in the Caribbean region.

Turtle fishing in this region is done with the approval of the authorities in limited quantities for consumption by the native communities.

Last year, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Marena) authorized in a resolution the consumption of green sea turtles for “subsistence purposes for the communities of the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast”.

Turtle meat is part of the traditional diet of the Nicaraguan Caribbean, a multi-ethnic region once colonized by the British and inhabited primarily by indigenous people of the Miskito ethnicity, as well as Mayangna, Garifuna, Creole (Afro-descendants ) and Métis.

With turtle fins, locals cook the famous “rondón” soup, which also includes other seafood, while turtle meat and eggs are used to prepare a variety of dishes accompanied by rice, cassava or cooked plantains.

During the breeding season, the green turtle lays about 100 eggs per nest. When the hatchlings hatch, not all of them survive because they are also preyed on the beaches and in the water by other animal predators, according to the book “Fauna and flora in danger of extinction in Nicaragua”, by the consultant in wildlife management and veterinarian, Eduardo Sacasa.

According to the expert, green sea turtles live from southeastern California to Chile. They are also found east of the Galápagos and in Papua Guinea, Oceania. Chelonia mydas is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Michael M. Tomlin