29 December 2009

Happy Blue Year - A Review and Preview

This past year has been a time of transition and growth for SEE Turtles. We started the year moving from Ocean Conservancy to work with the great group of folks at The Ocean Foundation.

In 2009, SEE Turtles:
Despite the down economy, which dramatically reduced tourism, we helped connect 60 travelers to our partners in Costa Rica, Baja, and Trinidad. These travelers generated more than $13,000 for local communities and almost $10,000 for conservation efforts. Our grand total to date is now $62,500 generated, split between $35,500 for conservation and $27,000 for communities! In 2009, 22 volunteers completed more than 200 shifts, doing the dirty work necessary for these projects to succeed.

While we are proud of these results, we know a lot more needs to be done to protect sea turtles in these sites. SEE Turtles is gearing up for a big 2010, where we expect to more than double the number of people going to sites and the amount of money generated. Our plans for 2010 include new turtle sites, new species (starting with other ocean creatures), and more.

SEE Turtles succeeds with help from people like you. To make a tax-deductible online donation, please click here and be sure to check the box titled "SEEtheWILD" (our parent project).

Happy New Year and thanks for your support! SEE you in 2010.

22 December 2009

Of Sea Turtles & Selfish Giving

Fans of NPR may have caught an interesting story on "Selfish Giving" this morning. In this season of giving, the story explores whether giving that is not purely unselfish is moral. The story focuses heavily on cause marketing, where companies give to charity in order to sell more products, and suggests that giving and volunteering are the latest fad. But at the end, referring to students padding their college applications, the story asks "Is the high school senior who is volunteering in Costa Rica really making a difference in the life of sea turtles?"

In this economy, with non-profits cutting staff and services, we think that any reason that encourages people or companies to support social causes is a good one. SEE Turtles wouldn't exist without the support of socially conscious companies like Endangered Species Chocolate and Nature's Path, and those companies are successful because their customers want to support environmentally-minded businesses. Our project is based on the premise that many travelers want to do good while having fun and prefer operators who leave a positive impact on the locations where they send people.

From personal experience, I first went to volunteer with sea turtles in Costa Rica after graduating from college as a way to gain experience in the conservation field and build my resume. I wanted to help both the turtles and my career prospects and accomplished both. Yes, volunteering can help a young person get a job or into college. But it also helps small conservation groups cover long stretches of nesting beaches and brings in critical income to coastal communities. If helping sea turtles becomes a fashionable thing, its certainly better than the latest smart phone...

15 December 2009

Turtle Watching Inspires Young Philanthropy

Jeremie Crystal was just six years old when he saw his first turtle in Grande Riviere, Trinidad. He witnessed a giant leatherback, which he nicknamed "Nest-Quick." He also got to see tiny leatherback hatchlings on this incredible beach, one of the world's most important for this species. This memory has stuck with him for the past seven years.

Recently in school, Jeremy learned about how fishing gear can entangle and kill sea turtles. He decided then to take a collection at his Bar Mitzvah to help solve this problem. This past weekend, his efforts resulted in $1,000 for sea turtle conservation efforts! This donation will go towards reducing accidental capture in fishing gear in Baja California Mexico, which has one of the highest rates in the world of turtle capture and mortality.

Thanks to Jeremy, you are a wonderful example of the difference one person can make in protecting endangered species and living proof that ocean wildlife viewing makes people green! We hope you can join us for a trip to see your donation in action one of these days.

-Brad Nahill

08 December 2009

Inspiring Conservation Through Art

Can murals save sea turtles? This question was asked by graduate student Alyssa Irizarry, who worked with the School for Field Studies (SFS) to determine the effect of numerous paintings of ocean wildlife around the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico. Everywhere you go in Baja, from small coastal towns like Lopez Mateos to larger cities like La Paz, you see these wonderful paintings depicting whales, sea turtles, and other creatures.

Many of these murals were created as part of a Rare Pride campaign that the Grupo Tortuguero ran. Rare (an international conservation group that I used to work with) learned how important social marketing can be in changing attitudes toward nature and their campaigns utilize a combination of murals, costumes, puppets and more. Other murals in the region were created by the famous Wyland, who has made a career out of painting huge murals to help humans feel a stronger connection to the sea.

Alyssa's research was illuminating. According to SFS, she found that the murals reinforce messages delivered to local students and adults through environmental education campaigns. While the murals alone don't necessary inspire conservation, but she says that, "sea turtle murals can provide the motivation for community discussion and participation in turtle conservation."

To see the murals yourself (and the live sea turtles, too), check out our upcoming trips page.

-Brad Nahill

03 December 2009

Protecting Turtles and Helping Communities

Anyone who reads this blog knows how we feel about plastic. Leatherbacks and other turtles often confuse plastic bags for jellyfish, getting caught in their throats. Plastic litter covers nesting beaches around the world (see photo at right).

Now, however, we are excited to be able to help protect turtles
and residents near turtle sites by selling plastic. Recycled plastic handbags, that is. These bags are made from shopping bags by cooperatives of women in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Each bag is made from up to 80 plastic bags, helping get them out of turtle habitat while generating income for conservation efforts and women in low-income communities.
This fantastic project (called Weaving for Nature) is run by our partners at WIDECAST Latin America. To date, they have recycled more than 12,000 bags into new products.

These bags are now available through World of Good. Buy one for yourself or as a unique holiday gift! The bags range from $20 - 25 and coin purses for $10.