For the past four weeks I have been working with the Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia researching incentive based sea turtle conservation efforts. The Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International has worked with partners and local communities around to establish conservation agreements to provide communities the incentives and support so that they can afford to conserve the natural treasures in their communities.
All seven species of marine turtles are listed as endangered or critically endangered by IUCN, yet they all still face threats from incidental catch by fishers targeting other species, direct hunting, or the killing of nesting turtles. Collection of turtle eggs for subsistence consumption or sale also presents a serious threat. The challenge for conservationists is that marine turtles often live and nest near some of the poorest communities in the world. How do we conserve these endangered species without harming the livelihoods of the communities that currently rely on them?
Conservation agreements have been shown to be particularly successful affecting a reduction in poaching of nesting sea turtles and their eggs. However this approach is most successful when there is a long-term financing available. So over the past month I have been developing the building blocks to make the argument for a global fund for sea turtle conservation agreements to the conservation community.
I have just arrived in Ecuador to see firsthand how incentive based conservation agreements are being used to promote marine conservation. Tomorrow I will go with CI staff to visit a project in the Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve. The project includes a voluntary agreement with local fishermen receive monetary and non-monetary incentives in exchange for committing to the following conservation actions: temporary closure of the lobster fishery, physical demarcation and surveillance of no-fishing zone, testing alternative fishing practices, biological monitoring, and disseminating information in nearby towns.