28 October 2009

Tour Operators Unite to Protect Key Nesting Beach

Ten leading ecotourism operators are supporting efforts by conservationists to protect Las Baulas National Marine Park in Costa Rica. Las Baulas, near the coastal town of Tamarindo, is the most important leatherback sea turtle nesting beach on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Developers in the region are supporting an effort to downgrade the park's status from a National Park to a Wildlife Refuge, which would open up areas of the park to development and threaten one of the last remaining nesting beaches for this species along the Pacific.

Pacific leatherback turtles are one of the most endangered populations of sea turtles worldwide, with a 90% drop in nesting numbers over the past two decades.
While entanglement in fishing gear is the primary reason these turtles are dying, loss of nesting habitat is a major threat. Developers and conservationists in this region have long been at odds over hotels being built too close to the nesting beach; increased coastal development in this area would further threaten these beleaguered turtles. This development would also threaten an important turtle watching industry that brings people to this area to witness these giant reptiles lay their eggs.

SEE Turtles, working in partnership with Pretoma and the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, has gained the support of 10 leading ecotourism operators (list below), who together represent thousands of visitors to the country and millions in spending. These forward thinking operators know that their business depends on protecting wildlife, travelers want to know their trips are helping to protect nature, not destroy it.

My first experience working with sea turtles was ten years ago on Playa Langosta, part of the national park. I witnessed first-hand how large hotels can affect nesting beaches, camping next to the Barcelo Langosta Resort as it was being built. The hotel destroyed mangroves, lit up the nesting beach, and brought people who trample the beach with no idea of its importance. If this change is allowed to take place, Las Baulas is destined for more of this kind of unsustainable tourism, which damages wildlife while providing minimal benefits for local communities.

To learn more about this situation, read the ezine "Voice of the Leatherback Turtle" on NatureAir's blog.

To express your support to maintain the protections of Las Baulas, click here.

Here's the full list of tour operators and travel non-profits who signed on:

15 October 2009

Blog Action Day

We at SEE Turtles can't possibly pass up participating in the first annual Blog Action Day, this year focused on climate change. Regular readers of this blog (both of you) have probably noticed that its a subject we've been focused on lately. There's a good reason for that, as sea turtles are one of the most affected creatures by global warming. They are even nominated for National Wildlife Federation's new face of global warming. Here's an interesting National Geographic article about new measures conservationists are taking to adapt, with a quote from our advisory board member Carlos Drews of WWF Latin America.

I've already plugged 350.org's International Day of Action on October 24th. Use the link to find an action near you. An innovative new campaign is called tcktcktck (as in a ticking clock) to pressure for a strong climate treaty. Are you a young person who wants to speak out? Try Kids Vs Global Warming. Finally, with reports that oil companies are convincing more people to call their representatives against climate legislation, make sure to let your representative you want a strong bill passed. Environmental Defense Fund has a good site to voice your opinion.