Establishing a Socioeconomic Baseline of Sea Turtle Ecotourism in Baja California, Sur
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Baja California Sur provides vitally important habitat to five of seven species of sea turtles. All five species have long been subject to direct and indirect exploitation in the region, and federal intervention has largely failed to address conservation goals. A powerful opportunity exists to incentivize sea turtle conservation by means of ecotourism, as locals can use turtles non-consumptively to their socio-economic benefit. However, ecotourism is a complex multi-faceted endeavor built upon a mix of social, economic, and environmental factors. Community participation, a central component of ecotourism, depends on local perceptions and realities, but is often overlooked in ecotourism implementation. The purpose of my research is to describe and contextualize community perception and involvement in sea turtle ecotourism, with existing infrastructure and resources in the region. To achieve this goal, oral surveys, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation techniques were administered in communities throughout Baja California Sur during the summer of 2008. My findings suggest that local perceptions of ecotourism are highly optimistic but vary significantly between communities, as do existing tourism infrastructure and resources. Current local participation is low, but desire to participate is high among communities. Drivers to participate are based on a variety of economic, social and conservation factors. These findings will advise on proper implementation of sea turtle ecotourism in the region in order to maximize community involvement, and will provide a baseline from which to measure future successes and failures of sea turtle ecotourism.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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