Category Archives: Adam Fullerton (Washington D.C.)

From Fishermen to Conservationists

Last week I traveled with colleagues from Conservation International to the small community of San Francisco del Cabo in Esmeraldas Province where Conservation International and Instituto Nazca have been working with local lobster fishermen to help rebuild the degraded fishery and build knowledge of the fishery so that it can be successfully managed in the future.  Conservation International is supporting the project through a conservation agreement in which the local lobster fishermen receive monetary payments in exchange for not fishing and for working on monitoring and conservation efforts for the project.

The local fishermen have formed an organization, Arte Longosta, to carry out the conservation actions.  This organization is split into four groups which work in monitoring of the biological health of the area; monitoring the fishery; community outreach and education; and enforcement.  What impressed me most about the visit was the knowledge and interest that the fishermen showed not only in performing the tasks of the conservation project but in truly understanding the effects of the conservation efforts and how future management efforts would work.

Tagging and measuring lobster

The first morning we went out into the reserve with the fishery monitoring group and the project manager from Nazca and Nazca’s Executive Director.  The fishery monitoring group serves two purposes, first, they test new fishing equipment and second they collect data on the lobsters caught and the by-catch.  In the past the fishermen have used bottom drag nets which result in massive amounts of by-catch and damage the corals and other life on the sea floor.  They are now testing lobster traps which would not only reduce the level of by-catch but also reduce the damage to the sea floor. On our monitoring trip we took in two bottom set gillnets (better than the drag nets but still not ideal) and one trap.  The nets proved relatively successful catching about 20 lobsters all below the size limit, and about 30 fish were caught as by-catch. Unfortunately the trap was broken, but the next day after the fishermen had mended the trap they caught two large lobsters so hopefully the traps will prove to be a viable alternative.  In addition to testing the effectiveness of the different methods, the fishermen are also marking and recording the size of the lobsters, and recording the size and species of the by-catch.


After getting back to shore we had a marathon meeting with Arte Longosta, hearing from all the fishermen about their work, and the benefits and constraints of the project.  Almost all of the fishermen talked about what they had been doing in their groups and what they had learned.  I was very impressed with their presentations and the desire they had to understand what they were observing and to educate the rest of the community about the project.  Among their outreach efforts is a children’s picture book produced by Nazca that helps explain the need for better management of the sea.

More updates to come when I have the time to write.

How to Save Sea Turtles?

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.