The ever-increasing quantity of debris being introduced into our world’s oceans threatens all marine life, including sea turtles. At the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Hawaii, an art exhibit funded by a 2010 SWOT Grant was used to highlight the impact of plastic pollution on sea turtle populations around the world. The Oceanic Society used SWOT funding to support teams of students from coastal locations in Belize, Costa Rica, Hawaii (USA), Kenya, Micronesia, Palau, and Suriname to collect plastic debris from local sea turtle nesting beaches, create sea turtle sculptures from that debris, and ship the sculptures to the exhibit in Hawaii.
EARTHCARE’s Grand Bahama Island Sea Turtle Awareness Campaign was developed to help generate and demonstrate local support for the Bahamian government’s sea turtle harvesting ban, which went into effect September 1, 2009 (see page 17). Over the course of the campaign, which ran through April 2010, trained volunteers traveled to schools and libraries throughout Grand Bahama to give educational presentations and to encourage student involvement. During the presentations, students learned about sea turtle biology; threats, such as poaching, overharvesting, habitat destruction, and pollution; and the government’s recent ban. Students were then encouraged to write directly to the Minister of Fisheries to let him know their feelings about laws that should be implemented to help protect sea turtles in The Bahamas. By the end of the campaign, SWOT Reports had been distributed to all schools, colleges, and libraries on the island of Grand Bahama.
The sea turtle awareness campaign initiated by Marinelife Alliance in Bangladesh encourages sea turtle conservation around Cox’s Bazar, the tourism capital of the country and the nexus of 120 kilometers (74.6 miles) of threatened sea turtle nesting beach. Coordinated by Zahirul Islam at Marinelife Alliance, two school awareness programs have been implemented in Cox’s Bazar, with more than 50 students in each school studying the biological and ecological roles of sea turtles and the importance of turtle conservation. Teachers have been provided with brochures and posters derived from information in SWOT Report to facilitate continued sea turtle education. The campaign is also planning sea turtle awareness festivals in Cox’s Bazar and on nearby St. Martin Island where it will errect informational displays and distribute large-print SWOT Report-based publications.
Just off the western coast of Africa, the Cape Verde archipelago provides significant nesting and foraging habitat for three species of sea turtle. In May 2007, the University of Algarve in Portugal, with the support of the Sisbon Oceanarium, began an ambitious sea turtle conservation initiative in Cape Verde. Together they established the Sea Turtle House environmental education center; launched the Live Labs beach patrol and experiential education program; and produced an Environmental Education Package of lesson plans, activities, and posters for elementary and secondary school teachers.
In 2008, a SWOT Outreach Grant helped to strengthen the programs with additional educational materials and to create posters for a traveling exhibit aimed at influencing the national authorities. The exhibit was displayed at the first Praia Environmental Fair and was visited by the Cape Verdean president, prime minister, and minister of the Environment, Rural Development, and Marine Resources.
China’s Hainan Province comprises some 200 islands strewn along the country’s southern coast. The area boasts a successful fishing industry and beautiful, pristine beaches that attract tourists and sea turtles alike. Unfortunately, although business in Hainan has grown, sea turtle populations have declined.
With the support of a SWOT Outreach Grant, Dr. Yamin Wang of Shandong University set out to educate visitors and residents about the importance of protecting the region’s sea turtles.
During the three-month-long campaign, Dr. Wang and his colleagues distributed more than 150 copies of SWOT Report and 1,000 copies of related pamphlets, focusing in particular on speaking with fishermen. In addition, the team circulated a petition in Hainan’s capital city of Haikou to enlist greater support for conservation activities. The success of the initiative has brought a new level of attention to important local and global issues such as bycatch, poaching, and illegal trade.
The Union of the Comoros in the Indian Ocean has some of the most important green turtle nesting beaches in the world. A 2007 study evaluating the effects of bycatch on sea turtles and marine mammals in the Comoros revealed that these exceptional green turtle populations were under serious threat from accidental and intentional capture by artisanal fishermen. On the basis of those findings, Community Centered Conservation (C3) used its 2008 SWOT Outreach Grant to organize educational workshops in five of the villages found to have the highest capture rates on the island of Grande Comore. Fishermen attending the workshops received copies of SWOT Report and waterproof stickers for their boats with the affirmation: “I don’t eat turtles; they are an endangered species!” Additional SWOT Reports were distributed in village libraries, community centers, and fishing syndicate offices, providing further opportunities for community members to learn about the importance of their local sea turtle populations.
Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles nest along the shores of the Republic of the Congo, where fisheries bycatch, pollution, and coastal development are severe hazards. In 2005, local non-governmental organization Renatura developed a dynamic environmental education program geared toward teaching the nation’s next generation about sea turtles, the problems they face, and the importance of protecting sea turtles and other wildlife. A 2010 SWOT grant helped to fund another year of the program in schools in the economic center of Pointe-Noire (the country’s second largest city) and surrounding coastal villages.
The Cook Islands form a vast archipelago of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, and the Cook Islands Turtle Project is responsible for studying marine turtles throughout this expansive region. Little research has been done in recent years on the sea turtle populations that nest and feed here, and the resulting lack of information hinders efforts to protect not only sea turtles, but also the atoll ecosystems on which the local marine life depends. It took three weeks by sea for the researchers to reach the study zone, but with the help of a SWOT Grant, the Cook Islands Turtle Project was able to conduct the first sea turtle survey in decades, enabling scientists to support and advance conservation practices throughout the islands.
Machalilla National Park is the single most important feeding and reproductive area for hawksbill andgreen (black) turtles in continental Ecuador. Yet despite longstanding protection for both the park and its sea turtles, populations have continued to decline over the past several decades. In an effort to reverse this troubling trend, a 2010 SWOT grant to Micaela Peña of the Universidad Central del Ecuador was used to develop a Sea Turtle Recovery and Conservation Action Plan for Machalilla in collaboration with all of the park’s local stakeholders. Over the course of several workshops, participants discussed and prioritized existing threats, evaluated their underlying causes, and identified measures to mitigate them. Important next steps for the project include controlling and zoning key sites within the park, developing an education and outreach campaign, and pursuing more active local participation in conservation efforts.
Five species of sea turtles nest on the shores of Guinea-Bissau, where fisheries bycatch and direct harvesting for meat and eggs are some of the most pressing threats. Over the past two decades, the African Chelonian Institute has worked hard to learn more about the sea turtles in this region and to develop a long-term conservation plan that integrates research, outreach, and local capacity building. A 2010 SWOT Grant helped to fund community supported beach patrols on two key nesting beaches in the Bijagos Archipelago.
Recognizing the importance of education at the community level, the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) used SWOT Report content to develop “Save Our Natural Heritage” sea turtle posters to increase awareness amongst coastal fisheries responsible for sea turtle bycatch. GMTCS Project Coordinator Michelle Kalamandeen visited communities throughout Guyana and worked with media to raise awareness using SWOT Report and the posters. On Nov. 16, 2006, the campaign was presented during the Biodiversity Seminar held at the Centre for the Study of Biological Diversity, University of Guyana, attended by university staff and students, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency—Guyana, NGO staff, coastal community members and one member of Parliament. With the support of the Ministry of Fisheries, GMTCS is continuing the campaign by conducting community workshops on sea turtle conservation and training fisherman in sea turtle-friendly fishing techniques.
Using the SWOT Outreach Grant, Protective Turtle Ecology Center for Training, Outreach and Research (ProTECTOR) conducted two workshops at the Reef House Resort on the island of Roatan in Honduras. The workshops were designed to facilitate positive change among indigenous fishers of the Bay Islands. Workshop attendees, who varied in age from schoolchildren to retired fishers, learned to understand the critical links between tourism and marine conservation. Group discussions and open forums were held to discuss alternatives to harvesting turtles and their eggs as a source of income. The workshops resulted in the development of a plan for a conservation-based craft market that will combine community development, tourism interest, and conservation of sea turtles and the sea. Furthermore, a grassroots movement was launched among the attendees to facilitate a change from “poachers to ProTECTORs” within many communities.
In 2008, helped by a second SWOT Outreach Grant, ProTECTOR launched an island-wide educational outreach initiative involving school children ages 6 to15, with the goal of promoting a Turtle Nesting Hotline. Together with presentations on sea turtles, SWOT Reports were provided to schools as library references, and students were invited to assist in launching the Turtle Nesting Hotline by producing artwork and jingles to publicize the Hotline numbers throughout Roatan Island and the Bay Islands. From the materials submitted by the children, four art designs and one jingle were chosen. When fully operational, the Hotline will provide vital information about where turtles are nesting at any given time, thus helping to focus monitoring efforts on high priority beaches and establishing conservation measures for reducing human impacts at those sites.
The coast of Chennai in southern India has been a historically important nesting area for sea turtles. Recognizing the importance of educating and sensitizing local Chennai schoolchildren, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) seeks to integrate those children into its Awareness Programs for Conservation of Sea Turtles. Using funds from its SWOT Outreach Grant, MCBT inaugurated its educational program at Bhuvana Krishnan Matriculation Higher Secondary School in the state of Tamil Nadu. There, nearly 200 children, ages 12 to 15, and their teachers enjoyed MCBT’s puppet theater, poster exhibition, and slideshow about conservation of Chennai’s olive ridley turtles. The bank plans to extend its program to several local schools in the coming months, contributing copies of SWOT Report to each school’s library.
In Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation/Aliansi Konservasi Tompotika (AlTo) has taken a comprehensive approach toward protecting sea turtles along the Tompotika peninsula, while simultaneously confronting immediate and long-term challenges. In its campaign to stop poaching—the most urgent threat to local sea turtle populations— AlTo hires former turtle poachers to patrol beaches, and works with village leaders to enforce turtle protection laws. At the same time, AlTo seeks to foster long-lasting support for conservation efforts within the community through its Sea Turtle Conservation Awareness Campaign, which, to date, has reached more than 2,000 people.
In 2008, a SWOT Outreach Grant helped AlTo hold educational meetings in schools and villages where it distributed information and worksheets to predominantly young audiences. As one former turtle poacher said: “We now understand about the turtles and how we have to protect them. The children really loved the awareness meeting, and they are now all talking about sea turtles. Your conservation message has been received.”
Unsustainable fishing practices are a leading threat to local sea turtle populations in Kenya. With the help of a SWOT grant, Community Based Environmental Conservation (COBEC) led an awareness building campaign for fishermen that combined environmental education with capacity building. COBEC organized a series of local meetings at which fishermen were taught about local marine ecology, and sea turtle conservation and research techniques such as turtle tagging, nest mapping, and nest protection. In addition, five outdated fishing nets were replaced with new, more turtle-friendly nets. In the months following the campaign, the number of turtles released by fishermen increased.
Despite protective international and Kenyan legislation in place since 1977, sea turtles along the Kenyan coastline continue to be extensively exploited for their eggs, meat, and oil, as well as being caught in large numbers as bycatch. LOT-WTW works toward protecting sea turtles through a wide range of programs, including bycatch compensation, nest and hatchling protection, turtle rescue and rehabilitation, and local outreach and education. A 2009 SWOT Outreach Grant supported LOT-WTW’s ongoing education work. This work includes (a) school programs with lectures, visits to the turtle rehabilitation center, arts competitions, and marine science career development; (b) tourist programs with hotel talks, beach cleanups, and turtle release events; and (c) fisher programs with presentations at key ports and the LOT Marine Education Center. Together with educational posters and stickers, SWOT Reports were distributed to activity participants and proved particularly useful in helping LOT-WTW staff members communicate the global scope of sea turtle conservation with local Kenyan communities that have long perceived it as an isolated problem.
In a country where recent war has complicated daily life, Mona Khalil has been successful in creating the Sea Turtle Conservation Project in south Lebanon. The program raises awareness and helps to protect the sea turtle nesting beach of El Mansouri–El Koliala. Mona’s SWOT Outreach project targeted volunteers on the beach. Initially, students from other regions of the country were enlisted to help protect the nesting beaches, but because of the recent war, they were unable to take part. Tourists on seaside holidays and soldiers stationed on the beach, however, were available and willing to lend a hand in monitoring and cleaning up the beach. Local teachers began to disseminate conservation information from sources such as SWOT Report, Vol. II —which featured an article by Khalil about El Mansouri–El Koliala —to their students and communities, raising awareness about the importance of protecting the nesting beach. Several groups of special needs children were also given the opportunity to assist in the release of sea turtle hatchlings. Despite rigorous challenges, Khalil’s relentless effort has increased the conservation consciousness of nearby communities, government authorities, and foreign visitors, mitigating the hazards to turtles in their nesting habitat.
The Banggi Environmental Awareness Centre, established by WWF-Malaysia in 2003, is located in the proposed Tun Mustapha Park in the Kudat-Banggi region of Sabah, a 1,000,000 hectare (2,470,000 acre) marine park supporting large populations of green and hawksbill turtles. WWF-Malaysia staff coordinated a series of awareness events during the fasting month of Ramadan to promote sea turtle protection within the park. Each evening’s event consisted of a presentation based on SWOT Report content, followed by activities such as constructing sea turtle models from recycled materials, cleaning up the beach, and the creation and performance of a play based on local sea turtle folklore. WWF-Malaysia and Sabah Parks plan to visit 60 villages over the next six months to build support for the Tun Mustapha Park and maintain the enthusiasm generated during the month of awareness activities.
Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s Turtle Research and Rehabilitation Group, popularly known as SEATRU, conducts a marine turtle conservation program in Chagar Hutang on Redang Island, a primary nesting beach for green turtles in peninsular Malaysia’s state of Terengganu, a popular tourist locale. To increase the understanding and appreciation of local sea turtle populations, Eng-Heng Chan and Pelf-Nyok Chen of the Turtle Research and Rehabilitation Group used SWOT Report content, along with local information, to develop 19 educational posters. During the beach’s seasonal closure from October to April, the posters were used in a traveling exhibition and are now permanently housed in the new Chagar Hutang Turtle Gallery, which is expected be a popular attraction for students, tourists, SCUBA divers, and journalists who visit the island.
The Ulithi Sea Turtle Conservation Project, conducted through the Oceanic Society, is located on Falalop Island, Ulithi Atoll, Yap, Micronesia. With SWOT Outreach Grant funds, educational materials from SWOT Report enhanced sea turtle education programs for the local community and visiting eco-tourists. The educational outreach focused on regional sea turtle conservation activities that had been created for teachers, students, and community leaders on Falalop Island. As a means of expanding outreach efforts, a Sea Turtle Information Workshop was held for educators from the whole of Yap state, attracting more than 30 participants, who received copies of SWOT Report and educational supplies to add to their schools’ libraries. Funds from SWOT supported educational exchanges between eco-tourists and community members employed by the sea turtle project. The SWOT grant, in combination with ecotourist donations, also facilitated a Sea Turtle Scholarship awarded to an outstanding Ulithi student to cover high school tuition fees. These programs have generated a greater commitment among the entire population to the efforts of the locals involved in sea turtle conservation.
Paso Pacífico’s sea turtle outreach and education campaign in San Juan del Sur, Rivas, Nicaragua, is aimed at communities surrounding the La Flor Wildlife Refuge, an important olive ridley and leatherback nesting ground. Paso Pacífico strives to increase local appreciation for sea turtles and their environment and to enhance cooperation among La Flor reserve managers for the benefit of the sea turtles and sustainable tourism. With SWOT Outreach Grant funds, Paso Pacifico held workshops in the communities of La Tortuga, Ostional, and Escamequita, sharing lessons from SWOT Report (volumes I and II) about the importance of community involvement. They introduced 65 participants, including fishers and youth from the community, to the region’s sea turtle species and the conservation challenges they face. Individual meetings with community leaders, members of the municipal government, and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment, explained the campaign. Paso Pacífico plans to continue efforts to promote coastal and marine conservation through various ecotourism, educational, and community-led turtle monitoring programs.
The Casamance coastline in southern Senegal is an area where mangroves, tropical forest, marine islands, and beaches combine to form a unique ecosystem mosaic of high natural value. For the past 30 years, an armed secessionist conflict has prevented these natural wonders from being well explored, researched, and documented. However, in 2008, with support from the University of Salamanca, Fundación Tierra Ibérica was able to conduct a study of the coastal zone from The Gambia to the Casamance River. The study revealed the presence of several marine turtle species that are being threatened by incidental and intentional capture by artisanal fishermen, and it recommended implementing a sea turtle education program for natural resource managers and partner organizations. A 2009 SWOT Outreach Grant helped support Fundación Tierra Ibérica’s sea turtle training course in the town of Kafountine, where the main artisanal fishing port is located. During the course, more than 20 people from different government and private institutions made presentations and were provided SWOT Reports and other materials on sea turtle biology, threats, and management and research techniques. The course concluded with a visit to the fishing port to directly engage local fishermen.
Using SWOT Outreach Grant funds, Edward Aruna at the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) designed an education/sensitization workshop using SWOT Report as a curriculum to learn about the worldwide status of sea turtles and Sierra Leone's place within that global view. Among the 55 attendees were university professors and students, police, secondary school teachers, ministry of tourism and ministry of environment officials, NGO representatives, coastal community members, harbor masters, and journalists who covered the story in the next day's news. Presentations based on specific articles from SWOT Report helped participants examine conservation activities elsewhere in the world and review the current state of sea turtle conservation in Sierra Leone. Before ending the workshop, the participants resolved to become a network of people who will continue to spread the word about sea turtle conservation in Sierra Leone and to support conservation activities in the future.
Uruguayan organization Karumbé promotes the preservation of marine wildlife through research and environmental education, focusing in particular on flagship species such as sea turtles. The Karumbé Marine Turtle Center, near the capital city of Montevideo, is a unique space designed to support and advance the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. In 2009, a SWOT Outreach Grant helped fund Karumbé’s ongoing education and awareness program along the Uruguayan coast. During the campaign, Karumbé staff members used SWOT Reports while leading discussions in schools, teaching workshops at universities, and meeting with fishermen in villages. Karumbé also held a sea turtle drawing contest among schoolchildren, using the beautiful photographs in the SWOT Reportsas inspiration. The winning team was awarded the honor of painting a mural on the wall of Karumbé’s new Marine Turtle Center, which is due to open in early 2010. The center, aimed at schoolchildren, fishermen, and tourists, will feature exhibits on the importance of responsible fisheries, the threats of marine pollution, and the challenges of climate change.