How do People Really Feel About Turtle Conservation

By January 11, 2011Ocean News

Wallace ‘J’ Nichols and some of his colleagues recently published a paper in Ocean & Coastal Management on the Attitudes of Local Communities Towards Sea Turtle Conservation and Ecotourism in Mexico. Local Sea Turtle Populations have decreased since the 1970s due to bycatch (turtles caught in fishing gear not meant for them) and trapping for consumption. The general attitude of the majority of the local community remains the same: There is nothing wrong with eating Sea Turtles as “They keep getting caught in their nets; therefore, how could there be a problem. The local community are obviously not aware of the plight of Sea Turtles on a global scale. Sea Turtles may be abundant in certain locations at certain times of the year; however, on a global scale, the populations are in trouble. Some of the numbers mentioned in the paper about Sea Turtle mortality due to fishing surprised me. 625 turtles per year are caught, sold, and consumed as food.

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The study surveyed individuals and discussed their views on Sea Turtle conservation, which were mixed and those that were positive may have just been trying to be polite. Further, the study mentions conservation programs run by SEE Turtles and RED Sustainable Tourism. Both organizations operate under the Grupo Tortuguero umbrella organizations with run Sea Turtle eco-tourism and voluntourism (tourists travel to participate in Sea Turtle Conservation). The cost of the programs are approximately $1800 USD.

The study concluded by suggesting that the organizations operate an education program for adults and children alike to communicate the global distress in which all species are undergoing so that they may be aware of the importance of maintaining AND protecting Sea Turtle populations in Mexico.

The abstract is below. Enjoy!

Abstract

In Pacific Mexico, all five sea turtle species have declined over the past century due to intense overexploitation of meat and eggs, fisheries bycatch, and degradation of marine and nesting habitats. One of the most heavily impacted areas has been the Baja California peninsula, where sea turtle populations remain historically low despite existing conservation measures that include a complete moratorium on the use of sea turtles, over three decades of widespread protection of nesting beaches, and in-water monitoring of sea turtles at coastal foraging areas. We recognize the need for alternative sea turtle conservation strategies that rely on increased participation of civil society and Mexican citizens. The purpose of this paper was to identify resident attitudes towards sea turtle conservation and opportunities for enhanced community participation in Bahia Magdalena, a region in Baja California Sur, Mexico experiencing high levels of sea turtle poaching and bycatch in fisheries. Through semi-structured interviews we found that while residents were overwhelmingly interested in participating in sea turtle
conservation, peer pressure and conflict within the community presented major challenges. The majority of residents indicated that sea turtle voluntourism would have a positive impact on their community. Economic incentives and increased protection for sea turtles were mentioned as benefits of sea turtle voluntourism, whereas peer pressure, difficulty obtaining permits and producing effective marketing materials, and doubt about direct economic benefits were cited as constraints. We discuss our results in terms of opportunities, challenges, and recommendations for improving community-focused sea turtle conservation throughout the region.

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