Groups Team Up for Turtles

The Earthwatch Institute and Ocean Conservancy have partnered on the SEE Turtles project to promote conservation of the world's endangered sea turtle populations. As all seven of the planet's species are under threat, the goal of the project is to demonstrate how public involvement in turtle conservation can have a bigger economic impact on local communities than traditional hunting.

SEE Turtles formally launched at the 28th Annual Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation Symposium, held by the International Sea Turtle Society, in Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, Jan. 19 to 26. Like the SEE Turtles campaign, many of this year's symposium offerings will demonstrate both the environmental and economic benefits of turtle conservation.

Sea turtles—marine reptiles whose forms and lifecycles have been virtually unchanged for millions of years—are under threat from many angles, including increased human development that destroys coastal nesting habitats, ocean pollution, indiscriminate fishing practices, and hunting. As a result, some turtle populations have seen up to a 90 percent decline in recent decades. In response, the SEE Turtles project will work to bring together concerned members of the public with local communities as a way to underscore the economic value of conservation. Recent studies by the World Wildlife Fund suggest that turtle-based conservation experiences have the potential to bring in more than three times the income of egg poaching.

Both groups already have shown the proof of the concept in popular destinations ranging from Baja to the Northwest coast of Coast Rica and the Caribbean isles of Trinidad and Tobago. These areas have well-established, ongoing sea-turtle studies in which volunteer participate.

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