Community-based sea turtle conservation in Baja, Mexico : integrating science and culture Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cj82kc48z

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  • This thesis discusses both theoretical and practical considerations inherent in conducting community-based research within a case study of sea turtle conservation in Baja California, Mexico. A brief background, including the general ecology, status and distribution of sea turtles of the Baja peninsula is presented, with an overview of the current and historic use and management of sea turtles. Several sets of theories provide the context within which the case example is analyzed. A discussion of how concepts of "science" and "knowledge" are shaped and how these perceptions impact choices made in natural resource management and planning is presented. This includes a brief discussion of conservation ethics and conservation rationale, as well as a review of the debates surrounding indigenous knowledge and its application in conservation. A review of community-based efforts in sea turtle conservation is also presented. The data and analysis offered in this thesis is the result of two field seasons working as a member of an interdisciplinary sea turtle conservation team: conducting biological studies, surveys, informal and semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The major goal of this research project was to evaluate a people-oriented approach to conservation. The objectives of the Baja sea turtle conservation project included: the involvement of fishing communities in the development of conservation projects, the involvement of local students and fishermen in the collection of data and the public sharing of research results on a regular basis. Results of this case study suggest that through dependence on the host community for food, equipment, labor and guidance a special connection was established, fostering trust and building the partnerships necessary for long-term conservation success. For this reason, fishermen and other members of the local host communities were more willing to cooperate with outsiders and share their intimate knowledge of their environment - including information on the daily movements and distribution of sea turtles. It is crucial that the fishermen feel empowered before they choose to participate in the sea turtle conservation efforts. They must be viewed, and view themselves, as an integral part of the conservation team contributing valuable knowledge and ideas, not just acting as boat drivers and guides for outside researchers within the host community. Community meetings served as an outlet to voice concerns and share information. The active involvement and participation of local communities is a highly effective tool in the sea turtle conservation efforts in the region.
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