Twenty-five Years of Sea Turtle Protection in Brazil: Evaluating Local Effects
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This study evaluated how three conservation approaches implemented by the Brazilian Sea Turtle Conservation Program (the TAMAR Project) are related to local support for sea turtle conservation in Praia do Forte, Brazil. Four species of sea turtles nest in Praia do Forte. In Praia do Forte, locals harvested sea turtles for their meat and eggs on a regular basis to support subsistence needs. The three conservation strategies analyzed are employment opportunities and alternative sources of income from sea turtle ecotourism; enforcement of federal sea turtle protection laws; and implementation of environmental education programs via sea turtle ecotourism. These conservation strategies, which are implemented since 1982, represent both top-down and bottom-up conservation paradigms. Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered through nine months of fieldbased research (between May 2006 and September 2008), using tools of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and key informant interviews. Results indicate that conservation strategies implemented by TAMAR seem to influence local support for sea turtle conservation. Income and environmental education programs to the local children are cited as the main benefits sea turtle conservation brings to the community. Enforcement caused resentment when first implemented, but is now perceived as a necessary strategy to protect sea turtles. The relative lack of community participation in sea turtle conservation seems not to have hampered local support for sea turtle conservation. In fact, the majority of respondents perceive TAMAR as the most appropriate entity to manage sea turtles, and only a minority believes the community should co-manage sea turtle conservation with TAMAR. Though these three conservation strategies seem to help maintain traditional ecological knowledge, the future of this knowledge across generations is uncertain. Though community-based sea turtle conservation is working at the community scale, external factors associated with tourism development at the larger scale seem to influence both livelihoods and sea turtle survival. On a negative side, larger scale tourism development is associated with an increase in the cost of living, the introduction of drugs, violence and greater sense of insecurity, changes in the local fishing culture, and with ongoing threats to sea turtle survival. Tourism development is associated with benefits as well, including improvements in the local infrastructure, employment opportunities, and alternative sources of income. Since tourism development, at both local and regional scales, is unlikely to decrease any time soon, sea turtle survival no longer solely depends in getting local support for sea turtle conservation, but also in addressing the external factors that drive conservation and consumption of sea turtles. Overall, sea turtle ecotourism is one part of a larger strategy for meeting local socioeconomic needs while also protecting sea turtles in Praia do Forte.
Pegas, Fernanda V. (2009). Twenty-five Years of Sea Turtle Protection in Brazil: Evaluating Local Effects. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from