03 December 2008

seeTURTLES.org on National Geographic.com

While fact-checking an upcoming story on the pros and cons of development in Baja California, Senior Researcher Meg Weaver stumbled upon the story of Adelita, a loggerhead turtle who migrated nearly 7,500 miles from Baja, California to Japan in 1996. Conservationist, academic, and activist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols helped pin down the facts of Adelita's astonishing journey and took some time to tell IT about his current projects, what he's passionate about, and where to find Baja's legendary fish tacos.

Read the interview HERE

18 November 2008

Press Release: SEEing turtles on election day!

Where were you on Election Day? Saving sea turtles!

Ten travelers celebrate Election Day ‘08 by working with fishermen to save sea turtles

November 18th, 2008

For immediate release

Brad Nahill, Director, SEE Turtles (brad@seeturtles.org)
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, California Academy of Sciences (wallacejnichols@mac.com)
Luis Garduño, Baja Expeditions (luis@bajaex.com)

(Photos available upon request)

After a seemingly endless presidential campaign, filled with debates, conventions, and a record number of commercials, 10 adventurous travelers celebrated election day in a creative new way—by camping on a remote island off the Baja California Peninsula, helping to protect endangered sea turtles.

In contrast to the plugged-in, non-stop televised reporting, these dedicated travelers enjoyed a quiet week camping on remote beaches in the Sea of Cortez and Magdalena Bay, knowing that they did their part back at home to elect a new president. “I left Baja feeling relaxed, accomplished, and inspired”, says participant Melissa Bray of Florida.

They will also know that their relaxing vacation is helping to create new hope for protecting turtles in this biological paradise. This inaugural trip to Baja California Sur supports a growing turtle conservation movement. Turtle watching offers an alternative to fishing or poaching for local residents who want to see a future for turtles and themselves in the region.

Read more HERE

03 November 2008

SEEturtles.org grows and moves to Ocean Revolution

We are pleased to announce the transition of the SEE Turtles project to Ocean Revolution. SEE Turtles was conceived as a conservation tourism project in Ocean Conservancy's Marine Wildlife Program in April, 2007 and after a successful launch is now ready to take the next step. By transitioning SEE Turtles to Ocean Revolution, we will expand the international reach of the project, in line with Ocean Revolution's mission of inspiring people around the globe to take action to protect ocean wildlife. Brad Nahill will manage the project within Ocean Revolution, joining the organization full time in January, 2009. Dr. Wallace J. Nichols will continue to work with the project, advising on best practices, leading trips to partner sites and reaching out to the public through the media and speaking opportunities.

The last couple of months have been very successful ones for SEE Turtles. The project’s first organized trip to Baja California Sur is happening right now and will result in more than $6,000 raised for local partners. We have had media coverage on the blogs of National Geographic Traveler and the San Francisco Chronicle, and have started a new Facebook group that has grown quickly (you can sign up for the group here).

The SEE Turtles website URL (www.seeturtles.org) will remain the same and it will be transitioned to Ocean Revolution by the end of November. Once the transition is complete, we will continue our current activities, and look into new international markets to increase sea turtle conservation. We will also expand our outreach to ensure the success of the project. Please direct any questions to me at my new email brad@oceanrevolution.org.


18 October 2008

SEE the Wild

Like a lot of kids, I fell in love with the ocean at an early age. I was a card carrying member of the Cousteau Society and a sticker bearing the Calypso logo adorned my bicycle’s down tube. Wherever I went, I had the ocean on my mind.

I’d sit in front of my small saltwater aquarium and imagine being the plastic diver bubbling up from the bottom, finding the treasure, swimming with the sharks.

Jacques himself sent me newsletters every so often. Along with my fish tank and occasional trips to the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Ocean Life, I kept my dreams alive between real visits to the seashore.
There’s nothing quite like the real thing. Whether mating horseshoe crabs or nesting sea turtles on the beach, dolphins bow riding or sharks roaming a reef, being there with wild animals on their terms is unforgettable. It helps us define who we are and what our ocean planet is all about.

We while away the time between these encounters with stunning high definition documentaries, brilliantly written accounts of nature and mini ocean ecosystems behind glass. But for me, those are a tease. The real thing is what I want.

We know that millions of nature lovers, converging on a place, can ruin the very nature they came for. From this dilemma emerged the concept of “ecotourism” which seeks to “leave no trace”, respects both people and nature and generally condones smaller groups. Think kayaks, not cruise ships.

Nowadays “conservation tourism” raises the stakes. It’s all those things, but has an explicit purpose to benefit wild, endangered species and places.

It’s goal is to connect you with a wild animal, say a shark or a sea turtle--maybe even a coral reef--with the end result being a win for the species, for you and for the local community. It’s the kind of nature travel that, when it’s successful, removes the threats, rebuilds nature and restores abundance.

I meet people everywhere I go who have a good story about how a chance face to face meeting with a wild sea turtle, shark or whale changed their life. They’re carrying the memory around with them like that Calypso sticker. They are lifetime members of the See the Wild Club and don’t even know it.

When we see the wild, on its terms, we’re simultaneously humbled and inspired. One animal to another, sharing a planet, trying to coexist. The lessons we take away from those encounters are deep and personal. They make us wonder. And they stick with us, help get us through.

So, go on. Your aquarium and flat-screen high-def TV will be there when you get back to stoke the memories of where you were.

Just get out there. See the wild.

[To learn more about seeing wild turtles in conservation tourism hotspots, visit SEE Turtles]

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols has a deep passion for nature and the ocean and he shares his connection with the world through photos, film, research, writing, art, and a blog on his LIVBLUE blog.

06 July 2008

OpEd: Do we need sea turtles?

Santa Cruz Sentinel

In 1996, I was on the first team to attach a satellite transmitter to the back of a sea turtle and track her migration across an entire ocean. Her name was Adelita, after the daughter of a local fisherman. Over the next 368 days, she swam some 7,000 miles from Mexico to Japan, the country where she was born. Adelita swam her way into computers and newspapers and, soon, into the minds and hearts of millions who followed her epic journey.

Earlier this month, the Great Turtle Race II expanded on Adelita's journey. Eleven leatherback turtles navigated the high seas. Thousands of turtle fans monitored their progress online. The race winner and first to cross the International Dateline, traveling almost 4,000 miles, was Saphira, our Santa Cruz hometown favorite.

In a recent New York Times blog covering the race, journalist Andy Revkin dared pose the question, "Do we need sea turtles?" The responses have been passionate and thought-provoking, but inconclusive.

For me, Revkin's query misses the point, begging more important and more provocative questions: Do we need all-you-can-eat shrimp dinners and swordfish steaks that kill so much ocean wildlife? Are endangered sea turtles worth saving at the cost of a few luxury items? How much do we really need?

As a scientist, I understand we know little about the ecological roles of sea turtles. The turtle populations we study are a mere tenth of their former abundance. Stories from before the age of synthetic nets and outboard motors read like science fiction: clippers cutting through seas full of floating sea turtles, fish being raked into boats and psychedelic reefs exploding with life.

In ways we will never fully appreciate, each lost species weakens us all, but the loss of sea turtles goes far deeper than the loss of a single thread in the fabric of life.

For the Seri Indians of Mexico's Sonoran coast, sea turtles are life itself. To them, leatherback turtles are ancestors. They are at the heart of their songs, stories, dances, ceremonies and, lately, ocean conservation efforts. An ocean away, the Kei Islanders believe that their ancestors gave them the leatherback as a source of food to be hunted by hand from open boats. Always to be shared, but never sold. In Costa Rica, where leatherback turtle numbers have crashed hard, former egg poachers now protect turtles and lead ecotours -- a transformation bolstered in turtle hotspots around the world by Ocean Conservancy's SEE Turtles project.

On a recent flight, soaring high above the ocean, my row-mates described personal connections to sea turtles. "They changed our lives," they said. "Swimming with them, seeing them, on their terms, was the best thing we've ever done."

Thinking of them and pondering the question, "Do we need sea turtles?" I can only imagine the look on the faces of the Seri and the Kei Islanders and the millions of kids tracking turtles online, of a Mexican girl named Adelita, those Costa Rican turtle guides and a few strangers I met on a plane. Each would smile gently, shake their heads and laugh at the very question.

If you would like to ensure a world with sea turtles, visit oceanconservancy.org or seeturtles.org to plan a turtle-friendly vacation to see them in the wild, or join the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup to gather trash that threatens turtles, and, while you are at it, join Ocean Conservancy and become an outspoken advocate for sea turtle protections.

Wallace J. Nichols is research associate at the California Academy of Sciences and the founder of Ocean Revolution and the SEE Turtles conservation tourism project SEETurtles.org. Visit wallacejnichols.org for more information.

15 March 2008

SEEturtles.org in Outside Magazine

Outside Magazine, March 2008

The Green Issue

Al Needs Some Copilots

You don't need to have billions or hold office to make a big difference. Just check out how this year's nine eco-all-stars—from a Chilean dam buster to a snowboarder who's seen the light—are changing the world.

By Dianna Delling

"We're putting too much into the ocean and taking too much out," says Wallace J. Nichols, skipping the mind-numbing stats a guy with his credentials—he's an Ocean Conservancy senior scientist and a top sea turtle expert—could recite in his sleep. "Putting too much in? Go a week without creating plastic waste. Taking too much out? Check out ShrimpSuck.org."

The site, started by Nichols in 2007, urges consumers to stop eating the country's most popular seafood, which is typically caught using turtle- and dolphin-killing nets. It's one of many issues Santa Cruz, California–based Nichols has tackled while juggling research (he was the first to discover that Pacific loggerheads migrate almost 7,500 miles to the coast of Japan) and working with more than a dozen conservation groups. This year, among other projects, he'll help Mexican villagers develop profitable turtle-watching tours and lead the Ocean Conservancy's first SEE Turtles trip, which puts travelers face to face with the creatures. "Sea turtles are sentinels for the ocean," he says. "They're my portal into everything."

03 March 2008

SEE Turtles Program in Brief

We have developed a conservation effort called SEE Turtles that looks to steer travelers to turtle hotspots where their dollars can bolster protection efforts and local economies. We call it “conservation tourism.” Writer Andy Meyers was a guest on a pilot run in Baja California, Mexico, and filed this report for OC Magazine. For more on SEE Turtles and partner locations in Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica and beyond visit the main SEE Turtles Web site. Ocean Conservancy remains a vital SEE partner and supporter, while the program is now run internationally by Ocean Revolution.

Read Andy's Travelogue HERE

22 January 2008

SEE Turtles Conservation Tourism Program Launches

Ocean Conservancy Launches Conservation Tourism Program to Protect Endangered
Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Ecological Expeditions supports community-based conservation and
alternative sources of income for residents that protect rather than harm sea

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Ocean Conservancy
announces its new conservation tourism program, Sea Turtle Ecological
Expeditions (SEE Turtles). The program informs travelers about sea turtle
locations where local conservation efforts are underway, resulting in support
for sea turtle protection while increasing community resources that help
residents thrive and value sea turtles in the wild. SEE Turtles also provides
turtle watching guidelines to travelers taking conservation tours to reduce
negative impacts on turtles and the host community. Going beyond the
ecotourism mantra of tourists not impacting the environment they visit, Ocean
Conservancy suggests that travelers should make an impact - a positive one -
through conservation tourism. With six out of seven sea turtle species
endangered, SEE Turtles is founded on the premise that the growing business of
sea turtle viewing and tourism must be developed with the goal of protecting
sea turtles as well as generating revenue.

"Sea turtle populations face serious threats from getting caught in fishing
gear and from market demand for turtle meat, eggs and shells. People who are
on the ground protecting sea turtles where turtles feed or nest can make the
biggest positive impact for the animals through community ties, cultural
sensitivity, and simply because of their proximity to turtles," said Dr.
Wallace J. Nichols, a senior scientist with Ocean Conservancy and a leading
international sea turtle expert. "Our program aims to empower and support
communities by encouraging tourists to take sea turtle tours run by former
fishermen. This will bring tourism money into communities where sea turtle
conservation tours are offered so that former fishermen and poachers can make
a living offering tours that protect sea turtles rather than harming them."

"I grew up in Lopez Mateos where many loggerhead sea turtles feed and grow to
maturity. The people in my town used to take sea turtles for granted. My
town was once known for consuming turtles. I knew I had to help sea turtle
populations survive by convincing fishermen and visitors that we need to
protect turtles," said Cesareo "Charo" Castro, sea turtle tour operator and
sea turtle conservationist in Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
"Ocean Conservancy's program holds much promise by sending people to our
community to support my business and my home town, where we now work hard to
protect turtles."

Ocean Conservancy's SEE Turtles program currently focuses efforts on essential
sea turtle habitat in Baja California Sur, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad.
The SEE Turtles program is guided by nine advisory board members with
expertise in policy, sea turtle science, tourism, and marine wildlife
conservation. SEE Turtles advisory board members helped to develop sea turtle
watching guidelines that are being provided to travelers and tour operators,
as well as criteria for selecting sites for SEE Turtles.

"Ocean Conservancy's Sea Turtle Ecological Expeditions program is poised to
successfully contribute to local sea turtle conservation efforts at a time
when travelers are more interested than ever to support the communities they
visit," said Chris Seek, President and Co-founder of Solimar Travel. "Last
year we witnessed a tremendous growth of travelers in search of a vacation
experience that provided an opportunity to support sea turtle conservation.
The travel experience that conservationists like Cesareo are providing is in
great demand and we are thrilled to connect our travelers with these efforts."

Plans to expand SEE Turtles to additional locations will begin in 2009. To
learn more about Ocean Conservancy's SEE Turtles program and to find out where
you can visit to contribute to sea turtle conservation, visit
www.seeturtles.org or www.oceanconservancy.org.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is the world's foremost advocate for the ocean. Through
science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and
empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is
headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in New England, Florida, the
Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and California with support from more than half
a million members and volunteers. For more information, visit

About Solimar Travel

Solimar Travel is a travel planning agency for independent travelers focused
on high-quality travel experiences to undiscovered destinations around the
world. Working with in-country partners that share the company's commitment
to sustainable tourism, Solimar Travel aims to build customized itineraries
that fit within your budget and match your interests. Solimar Travel holds
the belief that travel is a personal experience and that each traveler should
be an integral part of the travel planning process. Their aim is to provide
you with the experience of a lifetime, while supporting sustainable tourism in
the destinations that you visit. Solimar Travel is on the web at

SOURCE Ocean Conservancy