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The Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor (Passage of the Isthmus) is a magical landscape that includes rich tropical forests, freshwater lakes, Pacific coastline and marine areas, and traditional Nicaraguan farmland. This corridor serves as a model for partnering with communities and is the foundation for our long-term vision to connect habitat northward across Central America. Located along the 12-mile-wide isthmus between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean, this narrow passageway has historically served as a land bridge for wildlife migrating between North and South America. Today, the Paso del Istmo contains extraordinary biological diversity with a range of habitats that include endangered dry tropical forests and freshwater wetlands and which host important species such as the endangered black-handed spider monkey and the yellow-naped Amazon parrot. Cover: From one generation to the next, the Paso del Istmo’s natural resources support local livelihoods.

Dear Friends, Thanks to your support, we are making a difference for ocean conservation. Although it is the dry season in Central America, this is also a time of renewal and life. In the forest, yellownaped Amazon parrot chicks grow in nests that are protected by local community members and motion-detecting cameras capture images of deer and anteaters with their young. At the beach, the trade winds blow and promote an upwelling of ocean nutrients, attracting fish that provide food and income to fishers and their families. And while some sea turtles decrease their nesting activity, species such as the green sea turtle nest in larger numbers, keeping our rangers active in their efforts to protect fragile nests. In this issue we are excited to share stories of our sea turtle and ocean conservation efforts. In particular, we are proud that these programs empower women. Whether they are protecting endangered sea turtles in a hatchery or building an oyster aquaculture business, local women are proving their leadership in the community and technical skills in managing resources. By empowering women, young and old, through entrepreneurship and education, we are promoting a culture of sustainability. We are grateful for your belief in this approach and your support for the protection of the planet. Yours truly,

Sarah M. Otterstrom, Ph.D. Founder & Executive Director

Smiling Oyster Cooperative members design oyster barrels in preparation for deployment and testing near the coastal community of El Ostional.

F RO M T H E F I E L D As Paso Pacífico’s new Managing Director, I was thrilled to recently travel to Nicaragua to get to know our projects firsthand. I stayed at our field office in Ostional where I had a chance to observe the daily life in this coastal fishing village. Each morning, the rising sun greets the local fishermen as they prepare their boats and nets for a day of fishing. Waves gently beat against the Eduardo Boné-Morón, M.S. shore and seagulls call out from above. Managing Director Once the boats are ready, groups of Paso Pacífico two to five men set off to find a day’s Eduardo began work with Paso catch in the near-shore waters. They Pacífico this February as the orga- usually target commercial fish such as nization’s first Managing Director. rose snapper (Lutjanus guttatus) and He brings over a decade of ex- grey grunt (Haemulon scudderi), but perience managing conservation will also often catch squid and other projects in Latin America, Africa, small fish to cook at home. Some days Europe and the U.S. He believes the fishing is better than others. in a collaborative approach to direct Paso Pacífico’s projects and staff in California and Nicaragua.

Although overfishing and changing currents affect the fishermen’s success, the size of their catch also reflects the health of the mangrove estuaries and coastal watersheds which provide natural nurseries for young fish and nutrients for coral reefs. This nearshore marine environment is an essential part of the connectivity and health of Nicaragua’s Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor.

“Life on land and life in the ocean are bonded in unexpectedly powerful ways. While they may seem like separate realms, the well-being of one depends on the other.” - Science writer Carl Zimmer

While Paso Pacífico and local partners are reforesting the upper La Flor River watershed with native tree species that are economically valuable to farmers, they are simultaneously working with fisher men and women to monitor the coral reefs, protect sea turtles, and to restore fisheries. One exciting project that I am getting to know − and a clear example of our work connecting people with conservation − is the Smiling Oyster Cooperative in Ostional. Forty-two female fishers work in partnership with Paso Pacífico to create Nicaragua’s first stand-alone shellfishery conceived for female empowerment and rehabilitation of coastal ecosystems. During my last trip to Ostional, I met with members of this cooperative where I spoke with Adela Pizarro and fourteen other inspiring women. Adela is 43 years old and raises three children as a single mother. She explained to me that for as long as she can remember, women have harvested rock oysters (Striostrea prismatica) to bring food to the table. This practice has enhanced community strength and forged strong bonds between women across generations. However, due to overharvesting, Adela and many other women must leave their homes before sunrise only to return with immature oysters too small for market. Because juvenile oysters are harvested before they are allowed to reproduce, the oyster population continues to decline.

Fishing with gillnets indiscriminately captures local marine life and is a technique we discourage in the Paso del Istmo.

Through support from donors at the Interamerican Development Bank’s Multi-lateral Investment Fund, the Waitt Foundation, the Loyal Bigelow and Jedediah Dewey Foundation, and also private individuals, Paso Pacífico is working with Adela and her neighbors to restore the oyster fishery. A healthy oyster fishery will improve food security, build economic resilience, and increase biodiversity. Once the project is well established, it will be scaled and replicated to encourage sustainable seafood businesses throughout the region. Paso Pacífico’s ocean conservation efforts are emblematic of its systems approach to conservation. This integrative approach is exciting for me because it is the type of work I always dreamed of doing. When I was in college in Mexico City, my parents expressed their desire for me to become an engineer. Each week, I would attend engineering school at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México ITAM, and then in the afternoon hours ride the bus across the

Many local fishermen use spearguns, allowing them to be highly selective and target desirable species.

city to study biology at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México UNAM. I eventually shared with my parents that I was pursuing two degrees, and when they realized my true passion was nature conservation, they gave me their full support. Today, after recently finishing a Masters in Conservation Leadership (Colorado State University-Fort Collins & ECOSUR-Chiapas) and after more than a decade of working in conservation projects around the globe, I am eager to dig in deep and to use my leadership skills to support Paso Pacífico in bringing about transformational change. The Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor is our laboratory, and as we improve and refine our methods, our approach may be replicated and applied in conservation throughout Central America and the globe.

“For most of the wild things on earth the future must depend upon .the conscience of mankind.”

- D r. A r c h i e C a r r

Father of modern marine tur tle biolog y and conser vation


“Arribada” “Arribada” means “arrival by sea” and is the name for the mass nesting event of olive ridley sea turtles. In a single night, thousands of female sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in one of the most extraordinary nesting events in the natural world. At times the beach is so crowded that previously laid egg clutches are dug up by other females excavating a nest to lay their own eggs.

P A RT N E R S P OT L I G H T S USAN W ALLACE Two years ago, Susan Wallace was introduced to Paso Pacífico when she visited Nicaragua while on a Board of Director’s retreat with Bat Conservation International. While on the retreat, Susan and the Bat Conservation International Board visited the most important bat cave at Volcano Masaya and spent an evening netting and identifying a diversity of bats with Paso Pacífico’s Junior Rangers. During her time in Nicaragua, Susan also learned about our multi-faceted sea turtle conservation program and helped to release sea turtle hatchlings at one of our nurseries. She met Paso Pacífico’s sea turtle rangers and talked with them firsthand about the challenges they face in confronting turtle egg poachers. She was especially moved by the children in the Junior Ranger program and their depth of knowledge and excitement about wildlife conservation. After her visit, Susan encouraged us to apply for funding with the Woodtiger Fund, a foundation committed to biodiversity conservation, and of which Susan is the founding director. Paso Pacífico submitted a proposal and was thrilled to receive funding for a project focused on sea turtle conservation and environmental education with the Junior Rangers. We are extremely grateful to Susan and the Woodtiger Fund for this opportunity. Susan Wallace believes that local communities should be at the center of conservation efforts. She puts this belief into action by involving herself in conservation organizations that use this approach around the world, including LEAP (Malaysia) and Lion Guardians (East Africa). Susan is an inspiration to all of us as she works tirelessly to prevent species from extinction by serving on the boards of noted organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and Bat Conservation International. We are grateful for our relationship with Susan and for her support of Paso Pacífico’s sea turtle conservation program.

With support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, we are working to monitor and protect the endangered black-handed spider monkey.

H I G H L I G H T S F RO M T H I S Q UA RT E R • Paso Pacífico employee Claudia Perla received the Disney Conservation Hero Award for her work protecting the critically endangered black-handed spider monkey. Claudia’s nomination for this award highlighted her endurance as a field researcher and her passion for forest conservation. Claudia was one of 19 conservation leaders from around the world to receive this award. • Earlier this year, 106 Junior Rangers graduated from our environmental education program. To become Junior Rangers, these children completed educational modules focused on environmental knowledge and stewardship and earned badges for each unit. These Junior Rangers are now working as ambassadors for conservation in their communities. • Paso Pacífico held its first annual Christmas Bird Count in the Paso del Istmo in early January. The event attracted 90 volunteers to come together to observe and appreciate birds, including over 40 Junior Rangers who used new binoculars during the event. A total of 129 different species were identified during the one-day counting extravaganza, including 15 threatened yellownaped Amazon parrots. • Paso Pacífico’s science director Dr. Kim Williams-Guillen held a series of workshops in the communities around Masaya Volcano National Park. The focus of these meetings was to share information about how bats can

help reduce agricultural pests and to explain the value of the nearby national park. • The women’s sea turtle nursery at Playa El Coco celebrated the successful hatching of 21 critically endangered leatherback sea turtles. Through a partnership with the Parque Maritimo El Coco, the women at this nursery are protecting the nests of four different sea turtle species, but leatherback nests are the rarest and most technically challenging to manage. • Paso Pacífico partnered with local dive fishermen to collect genetic samples from 22 juvenile hawksbill turtles foraging at nearby coral reefs. Collaborating scientists within the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative will analyze the genetic information. This research is invaluable for identifying threatened populations and prioritizing foraging and nesting sites for protection. • The Junior Rangers are engaged in bi-monthly monitoring to record observations of birds and primates in the forests neighboring their farms and communities. The data these citizen scientists collect will help us to evaluate the relationship between habitat quality and species occurrence. At the same time, the kids participating in this program are gaining skills in data management, wildlife observation, and cooperation with peers.

D ID Y OU K NOW? Although the endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) moves slowly when it is nesting, the species can swim up to 35 miles per hour when using its paddle-like flippers and streamlined shell to move through the water. This herbivorous marine turtle helps to keep coral reefs and seagrass beds healthy by feeding on algae and “trimming” the seagrass. The beaches of the Paso del Istmo present the highest density of nesting green turtles on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. Paso Pacífico, together with community and private sector partners, are protecting nesting habitat at five beaches of major importance to this species.

W H O F U N D S O U R P RO J E C T S ? Through funding and technical assistance from the InterAmerican Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IADB-MIF), we are working to develop a geotourism destination at the La Flor Wildlife Refuge. The three-year project is known as ELLAS and stands for the Environmental Learning, Leadership, Adventure, and Stewardship Initiative. ELLAS promotes biodiversity conservation through ecosystem services, and works to support female “enviropreneurs” in developing successful enterprises. Through training and business planning, local women are improving their tourism and environment-centered businesses which include hostels, naturalist guide associations, restaurants, and an oyster aquaculture cooperative. Paso Pacífico launched this project after it was selected as a winner in the NatGeo and Ashoka Changemakers Geotourism Contest. We are grateful for the technical support that Paso Pacífico and its community partners receive through this IADB-MIF program.

Left: A Smiling Oyster Cooperative member displaying her product.


USA PO Box 1244 • Ventura, CA 93002-1244 Phone: 1-805-643-7044 Email: Web: N ICARAGUA Carretera a Masaya Km 12.4 Residencial Villas del Prado, Casa No. 7 Managua, Nicaragua Phone: +505-2279-7072

F E AT U R E D S TA F F This list includes the names of our female team members in Nicaragua.

Empowering Local Women Liza González - Nicaragua Country Director Julie Martínez - Environmental Education

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Marcela Gutiérrez - Agroforestry Coordinator Claudia Perla - Primate and Forest Conservation Maritza Rivera - ELLAS Project Coordinator

Board of Directors

Adriana Castillo - ELLAS Project Assistant

Lotte Roache, President Retired non-profit professional

Claudia Lucía Torres - Office Administrator

Gian Marco Palazio, Secretary Café Las Flores Juan Marco Álvarez Business Council for Sustainable Development Frank Joyce University of California Education Abroad Program Costa Rica Teresa Lang Climate Action Reserve Sonia Ortega National Science Foundation Diana Pritchard University of Sussex Christine Schmidt University of California, Davis Derek Schlereth David Suzuki Foundation

Yazmina Flores - Office Assistant Elena Vargas - Sea Turtle Nursery - Ostional Karen Lacayo - Sea Turtle Nursery - Ostional Maura Martínez - Nursery Coordinator - El Coco Liessi Calero - Sea Turtle Nursery - El Coco Darling Delgado - Sea Turtle Nursery - El Coco María Rodríguez- Sea Turtle Nursery - El Coco Mercedes Peñalba - Marine Monitoring Nohemy Lanuza - ELLAS Consultant Silvia Velázquez - ELLAS Consultant Abril Zepeda - ELLAS Consultant Betzi Vilchez - Ostional Office Assistant Eyda Torrez - Public Health

Newsletter - Spring 2015  
Newsletter - Spring 2015