Police arrested a man with the last names Calvo Alvarado on Monday for selling turtle eggs outside of the Río Blanco stadium in Limón, on the country’s Caribbean coast.
Calvo was caught with 65 leatherback sea turtle eggs, which he was hawking for ₡1,000 ($1.82). Only Olive Ridley sea turtle eggs collected from Playa Ostional on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast –certified by the Environment Ministry – can be legally sold in Costa Rica. If convicted, the suspect faces up to two years in prison.
Endangered leatherback sea turtles nest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast from February to July, and poachers often target them for their meat and eggs. Officials at the Limón police department told The Tico Times that three egg sellers have been arrested so far this season in the municipality, and 485 eggs have been confiscated. More than 2,000 additional sea turtle eggs were taken from poachers along the rest of the coast.
Although numbering in the hundreds, the amount of eggs saved pales in comparison to the number of eggs taken by poachers, conservation groups say. According to Latin American Sea Turtles, a conservation group, volunteers with a former program on Moín Beach — the closest nesting beach to the city of Limón — used to collect an average of 117,920 eggs per nesting season. Due to security concerns, conservation groups no longer operate on Moín Beach, and most other nesting beaches along the country’s Caribbean coast are unprotected.