Community-based sea turtle monitoring and management at Helen Reef, Hatohobei State, Republic of Palau Public Deposited


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  • Remote areas are frequently homes to regional subpopulations of endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and their essential habitat. Local communities are often the users and primary stewards of this valuable and charismatic resource. Recognizing this, a Hatohobeian community group in Palau has engaged in longterm monitoring and conservation management within Helen Reef Reserve. Here, I report on and evaluate the motivations, monitoring methods, and results associated with this program. I provide recommendations for future monitoring and recovery planning of Helen green sea turtles based on field results, informal community interviews, community capacity, and existing literature. Capturemarkrecapture, nesting female observation, nest monitoring, hatch success, collection of tissue samples, and habitat assessment methods and results between April 19, 2005 and December 8, 2005 are provided. A total of 301 nests were recorded with peak nesting activity in June. All 47 nesting females were measured and tagged and 301 nests were monitored. The total minimum number of emerged hatchlings is estimated at 24,000. No correlations were found between carapace length and ii fecundity or hatch success. Additionally, 50 foraging green turtles and 6 hawksbill turtles were tagged. Limited harvests for local consumption and cultural preservation, as well as beach habitat protection emerge as the primary near term recommendations. Long term recommendations focus on continued nesting and improved habitat monitoring toward a population assessment, the creation of regional and international alliances for collaborative efforts, and use of satellite telemetry tracking to link foraging and nesting grounds of Helen turtles. I have determined several key factors influencing the successful implementation of sea turtle management and conservation at Helen in terms of (i) the structure of partnerships; (ii) scales of biological systems and capacity; (iii) relative remoteness; (iv) balance of costs and benefits; (v) adaptive capacity; and (vi) influence of traditional systems. Results of case study comparisons show that successful implementation of sea turtle conservation and management programs within the Republic of Palau is more likely when a local community drives the process and has the qualities of adaptability, capacity for truly bottomup decentralized management, recognition of valuable aspects of traditional management systems, and ability to generate tangible benefits. Lack of adaptive capacity, equitable benefits, civil society leadership; as well as, topdown management are identified as key limiting factors for successful implementation of turtle conservation and management. The Helen program emerges as a model for smallscale community conservation and management of wide ranging species demonstrating that an organic communitydriven process is fundamental to successful local endangered species management.
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