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.
Residents were overwhelmingly interested in participating in sea turtle conservation. Most residents also believed sea turtle voluntourism would benefit the community. However, peer pressure and questions about feasibility presented challenges.