Ecotourism: Conserving Sea Turtles while Making Money

By March 4, 2011 September 17th, 2011 Ocean Solutions

Ecotourism is one option for coastal communities to use ocean and coastal resources for income based on sustainability. Communities rely on the natural environment to attract tourists; therefore, the communities have an incentive to protect the natural environment as their incomes are dependent on it. Ecotourism is a big buzz word in the world today, but do we really know the meaning of the word? What is ecotourism and does it benefit the environment, social and economic infrastructure?

A recent article in a journal Conservation and Society, promoted by Speak Up for the Blue’s very own Ocean Leader Dr. Bob Payne, explores the advantages and disadvantages of Ecotourism for a Sea Turtle project in Praia De Forte, Brazil. The article studies a two decade old Ecotourism model created by the Brazilian Sea Turtle Conservation Program (TAMAR), which offers jobs and income to local community members in return for reduced harvesting of Sea Turtles. So the people who used to kill Sea Turtles for a living now work for TAMAR to help them run a Sea Turtle Ecotourism program, which will help protect the magnificent animals from extinction.

The study revealed a relatively steady income was given to the workers over the two decade period; however, it also observed an increase in development which can give the program some challenges. The program depends on undisturbed natural environments and new developments are traditionally known to disturb, destroy, and alter natural habitat. Of course, this is just speculation. I don’t know what type of developments are going in, but any new development may bring in business competition and reduce the income generated by the Ecotourism program. The workers may decide to revert back to their harvesting job to make ends meet if income is not as steady. The negative feedback could prove to kill the program and many endangered and/or threatened Sea Turtles. Only time will tell whether the program will survive, but as travelers and tourists we can make a responsible decision to support environment-positive Ecotourism programs such as the one operated by TAMAR by donating or using their services when travelling to Praia De Forte, Brazil.

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