Brad Nahill, Neil Osborne and Wallace J. Nichols. 2008. SEE Turtles: Elevating sea turtles into the ranks of top ecotourism attractions. 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.
Around the world, sea turtle conservationists have proposed the economic benefits of ecotourism as an alternative to the consumptive use of turtles (hunting, egg collecting and bycatch). Yet connecting tourists with conservation projects remains, for many, a challenge. While a few high profile beaches reap the rewards of income, jobs, and strong local support that ecotourism can bring, many ideal spots are overlooked while people look elsewhere for entertainment. Most turtle conservation projects lack training in marketing, resources to advertise, and the ability to reach the prized ecotourism market. The goal of this project is two-fold: to augment field conservation projects by increasing income for both local communities and for the local project itself; and to elevate sea turtles into the realm of top wildlife attractions while educating visitors on their threats and how to help. The initial sites will be chosen by several criteria including the benefit to turtle conservation; benefits accruing to the local community; the need for alternatives; basic tourism infrastructure; and the relative importance of the site for turtles. Initial sites under consideration include Baja Mexico, Costa Rica, the US Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and Florida. The Ocean Conservancy and its partners will reach this market by building interest through outreach to key travel and media outlets; providing information through our magazine, e-newsletter, and a central web site; and connecting people to responsible options through various outlets including tourism operators and partnerships with conservation groups. We have developed a set of criteria that we are using to assess the first sites that SEE Turtles will feature and will offer. The program will expand to offer diverse options in terms of sea turtle species, accommodations and infrastructure, geographic location (starting in the Western Hemisphere), and turtle activities (swimming, nesting, participation in research efforts if possible).
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