Washington, DC - Today, Ocean Conservancy announces its new conservation tourism program, Sea Turtle Ecological Expeditions (SEE Turtles). The program informs travelers about sea turtle locations where local conservation efforts are underway, resulting in support for sea turtle protection while increasing community resources that help residents thrive and value sea turtles in the wild. SEE Turtles also provides turtle watching guidelines to travelers taking conservation tours to reduce negative impacts on turtles and the host community. Going beyond the ecotourism mantra of tourists not impacting the environment they visit, Ocean Conservancy suggests that travelers should make an impact a positive one through conservation tourism. With six out of seven sea turtle species endangered, SEE Turtles is founded on the premise that the growing business of sea turtle viewing and tourism must be developed with the goal of protecting sea turtles as well as generating revenue.
"Sea turtle populations face serious threats from getting caught in fishing gear and from market demand for turtle meat, eggs and shells. People who are on the ground protecting sea turtles where turtles feed or nest can make the biggest positive impact for the animals through community ties, cultural sensitivity, and simply because of their proximity to turtles,” said Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a senior scientist with Ocean Conservancy and a leading international sea turtle expert. "Our program aims to empower and support communities by encouraging tourists to take sea turtle tours run by former fishermen. This will bring tourism money into communities where sea turtle conservation tours are offered so that former fishermen and poachers can make a living offering tours that protect sea turtles rather than harming them.”
"I grew up in Lopez Mateos where many loggerhead sea turtles feed and grow to maturity. The people in my town used to take sea turtles for granted. My town was once known for consuming turtles. I knew I had to help sea turtle populations survive by convincing fishermen and visitors that we need to protect turtles,” said Cesareo "Charo” Castro, sea turtle tour operator and sea turtle conservationist in Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, Mexico. "Ocean Conservancy’s program holds much promise by sending people to our community to support my business and my home town, where we now work hard to protect turtles.”
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