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Yadira Trejo Hern, Eglé Ma. Flores González, David Maldonado Díaz, Johath Laudino Santillán, S. Hoyt Peckham and Wallace J. Nichols. 2008. Youth networks as a tool for sea turtle conservation. In: Rees, A.F., M. Frick, A. Panagopoulou and K. Williams., compilers. Proceedings of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-569, 262 p.
When protecting migratory organisms such as sea turtles, community empowerment and the construction of conservation networks are important aspects that can determine success. Involving youth in these projects can have a positive impact on conservation efforts, since they are stakeholders and will become the next fishermen, heads of households and professionals. The future of coastal communities and sea turtles swimming in coastal waters is in their hands. When young people create a group that engages in conservation activities, they act as an example for other kids and youngsters in their community; they focus their energy and free time in activities that strengthen their personal development, their learning skills and their creativity. Additionally, they reinforce their identity adopting responsibilities inside their communities and expand their knowledge of the local natural resources. The North Pacific loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are critically endangered. As they feed off the Baja California Peninsula, they are vulnerable to fisheries, getting caught in gillnets and hooks as by-catch or as target species for the black market. Pto. Adolfo López Mateos, Baja California Sur, México is a fishing community crucial for loggerhead conservation because loggerheads aggregate at unusually high densities within the reach of local fisheries. Inspired by Ocean Revolution (an international program designed by Wallace J. Nichols to empower youth in the protection of the oceans), the proCAGUAMA team empowered youngsters from López Mateos to create their own youth conservation group in the summer of 2006. The 8 founding members of the Kguaboys carried out a number of activities: they 1) established the group by choosing the name and logo which they painted on t-shirts; 2) created posters for a sea turtle nature center and 3) prepared short visit groups through it. They took part in the research activities of proCAGUAMA, participating in field investigation and learning about the field work done with loggerhead turtles to better understand and effectively share their concern for these organisms. They also wrote a song: “Come and Save It” (a call to protect the loggerhead turtles in their waters), performed during the Sea Turtle Festival. They created the KGUA-CLUB, a space to gather and plan their activities, and a place where they create crafts recycling trash, which they sell to fund their projects. By autumn 2006 the group boasted 14 members, a work agenda, and the momentum and resolution to operate on their own. These were some of the achievements the Kguaboys accomplished during last summer. Now they plan to visit kindergartens in their community to
teach kids about the situation of loggerheads and visit other communities to teach what they have learned. The Kguaboys have inspired youth not only in López Mateos, but in neighboring communities including San Juanico and Punta Abreojos. A way of measuring the future impact of the Kguaboys will be the number of youngsters integrating the group and their capacity to continue operating independently. We expect long-term conservation gains by empowering young people to form local conservation groups and regional networks.
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