Harvesting eggs sustains a Costa Rican province

By Amanda Henderson

OSTIONAL, Costa Rica – Harvesters in one Costa Rica town look to turtle eggs as a significant resource.

When olive ridley sea turtles begin to come onshore to lay eggs, Ostional locals are prepared to harvest them. Ostional residents typically are given a 200- to 300- yard stretch of land to do their work and only take about 1 percent of the total number of eggs laid.

The Ostional Integral Development Association, locally known as AIDO, works with locals to bag the eggs and sell them to neighboring communities. The conservation organization began in 1987. Sold eggs are most often used for consumption.

“In the rainy months, they could sell up to 1,800 to 2,300 bags, and each bag contains 200 eggs,” said Yenifer Ruíz-Coba, one of the association’s leaders.

Each family in Ostional is allowed one bag filled with 200 eggs. To collect it, they must have a utilities receipt, which is then stamped to signify the pick-up.

While the money provided from gathering the eggs is handy for families, Juan Arrieta, a local turtle egg harvester, says it is not their sole income.

“This is a supplement for the families because we can’t live only by this,” Arrieta said.

The Costa Rican government has limited but never officially banned harvesting.

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge workers say the eggs can be vital for the community and its people.

“When you can prove that you depend on that resource, that’s another situation,” said Yeimy Cedeño-Solís, and official with the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge. “If you don’t have any other source of food or protein, we allow people to use this natural resource.”

One collection period takes place during the wet season and one during the dry season.

Edited by Kathryn Cawdrey

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