Bird, K, WJ Nichols and CR Tambiah. 2003. The value of local knowledge in sea turtle conservation: A case from Baja Califorania, Mexico. In: Putting Fishers’ Knowledge to Work: Conference Proceedings, August 27-30, 2001. Fisheries Centre Research Reports, 2003 Volume 11 Number 1. Pages 178-183.
The use of sea turtles by many coastal communities worldwide remains a part of their traditions and culture despite evidence of decreasing turtle numbers and strict laws prohibiting their harvest and use. There have been great advancements in our understanding of sea turtle biology and behavior, and the science of conservation is continually developing new tools. Unfortunately “science” does notalways translate into “conservation” on the ground. As researchers become increasingly aware of the cultural motivations involved in sea turtle exploitation, it becomes critical to shift conservation efforts towards local communities, particularly to the fishers often in the position to make choices directly impacting the fate of turtles. While the ways that fishers have negatively impacted sea turtle populations have been documented, what is often overlooked is how these same individuals can contribute to their conservation. A major goal of community- based efforts in sea turtle conservation is to develop practices which will protect sea turtle populations and habitats that are also compatible with the socioeconomic system and cultural ecology of local resource-dependent communities. Within a conservation mosaic, the incorporation of both biological and social research methods and communication are critical. Analysis of a case study in sea turtle recovery efforts within Baja California, Mexico indicates that community-based research can result in locals actively participating in conservation and providing the knowledge and information necessary to create successful long-term conservation plans. Formation of partnerships through local education, informal conversations, and community meetings are shown to be a fundamental part of sea turtle conservation. By combining the knowledge gained through scientific investigations, with the insights of the local population, we stand a much better chance of succeeding in recovery efforts, particularly if adaptive management techniques designed through community-based research and action are advocated.
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