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Saving Sea Turtles through Women's Empowerment

Using community-based interventions, this project empowers young women to participate in sea turtle conservation efforts in El Salvador.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional Beneficiary Feedback in this field

Explain your project idea in two sentences.

Train young women to implement a sea turtle conservation program that converts egg poachers into conservationists. Achieve community empowerment, economic security and environmental conservation.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

EcoViva. EcoViva promotes economic development and environmental conservation in Central America.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

The project of sea turtle conservation is not new, but the approach of focusing on the involvement of young women is new to our organization. We have worked on sea turtle conservation with community groups (mostly led by older men) in El Salvador for many years.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

Sea turtles are severely threatened and many families rely on them for their livelihoods. We aim to help conserve sea turtles, protect livelihoods, and promote women and youth empowerment. The problem is urgent as community members have seen a steep decline in sea turtle populations in recent years.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

This is envisioned as a three year project. The first year will focus on training and capacity building; we will carry out exchanges and conservation workshops to train young people and women on leadership skills and best practices in sea turtle conservation. The second year will focus on putting the hatchery program in place and implementing the incubation and release program. The third year will focus on income generating alternatives such as ecotourism and sustainable fishing practices.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

EcoViva partners with grassroots organizations in Central America. OYE provides youth leadership training, AMBAS provides women's empowerment experience and the Mangrove Association provides environmental conservation knowledge. EcoViva provides management oversight and bridges all 3 organizations.

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Get feedback from experts

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We monitor progress by collecting both qualitative and quantitative data to ensure ongoing reporting, reflection and learning. Data collection is conducted through pre-project, mid-point, and post-project surveys, interviews, and in-field observations. Throughout the project cycle we will evaluate and assess our progress and re-design aspects of the project as needed to increase impact and effectiveness.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

As a result of the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and our conversations with the constituents, we have shifted the focus to young women specifically rather than young people in general. As a response to the feedback we received, we also lowered the goal number of sea turtle hatchlings released by the hatcheries to be more realistic based on previous experiences in the region.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

Engaging young women is still a primary concern. How will we get young women to participate when there are so many social constructs holding them back from leadership positions and they still serve many traditional roles in the home? This is an area we are still looking for innovative ways to address.

Historically, people have viewed economic growth and environmental conservation as being at odds with each other. Our project proposes a different perspective. We believe that sustainable livelihoods can co-exist with conserving natural resources, and that the most effective people to implement these initiatives are those who rely on the environment the most.  People and the planet can, and must, co-exist, and our project seeks to re-establish a natural balance in the ecosystem, where people take only what they need and are invested in the sustainable management of their natural resources. 


This project seeks to maintain traditional livelihoods that depend on the viability of the coastal ecosystem by placing communities in positions of power and decision-making over their own resource management. We work with local, grassroots organizations that are at the forefront of community organizing, youth empowerment, and women’s leadership in conservation. Through a multi-faceted approach that places women and youth in central roles, we aim to conserve dwindling sea turtle populations and promote sustainable alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. 


This project specifically targets sea turtle populations that nest along the beaches and brackish inlets of coastal El Salvador. These include the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill, Eretmochelys imbricata, along with the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas), and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). All four species are included in Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), meaning they are species threatened with extinction. 


Sea turtles are considered keystone species, a species which an ecosystem depends on to maintain a proper biological balance. The loss of such a keystone species would result in drastic changes to the ecosystem. As keystone species, sea turtles play an important role in both ocean and land-based ecosystems. They keep the population levels of other species in check, including jellyfish and sponges, which helps maintain biodiversity and balances the complex ocean food-web. Nesting females improve nutrient-cycling processes on beaches and provide a food source for an array of flora and fauna. Sea turtle grazing on seagrass beds maintains the overall health of this delicate ecosystem. The conservation of sea turtles is not only essential to a healthy ocean and planet, but also to the sustainable livelihoods of communities that rely on them for tourism revenue. According to a World Wildlife Fund survey from 2009, tourism initiatives around sea turtle conservation bring in at least three times as much revenue as the sale of turtle products, including eggs.


Unfortunately, sea turtle populations across the globe are under threat. Facing overwhelming pressure from the illegal egg trade, destructive fishing practices, habitat loss, and a lack of environmental education, sea turtles found in Central and South American waters are on the verge of extinction. Sea turtle populations and their seasonal nesting habitat face continued threats from climate change, deforestation, pollution, large-scale agricultural development, and overexploitation of natural resources. The persistent socioeconomic conditions within many Salvadoran coastal communities exacerbate these threats, and sea turtle egg poaching continues to serve as a primary and important secondary source of income for many individuals and families. In addition, a reliance on nondiscriminatory local fishing techniques that employ explosives and industrial chemicals continues to intensify mortality rates observed among endangered sea turtle species. 


This project will mitigate these threats observed in several key communities on the Salvadoran coast. By directly engaging sea turtle egg poachers and fishermen in the conservation of resident sea turtle populations, and providing greater access to alternative livelihood techniques, this project will increase local capacity and attitudes toward conservation, as well as improve incentives for communities to protect the natural habitat they rely on for long-term survival.


The practice of collecting sea turtle eggs from nesting beaches and selling them for human consumption has long been an economically important livelihood for many generations of traditional egg collectors. Since 1998, the sale of sea turtle eggs has been banned in El Salvador, but for communities facing extreme poverty and with no alternatives available to them, the practice continues to this day as a thriving black market has emerged that trades in illegal sea turtle eggs poached from protected beaches. This practice has contributed to the marked decline in sea turtle populations and, along with harvesting sea turtles for their shells, loss of critical habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices, the sea turtle populations in El Salvador have declined dramatically, with several species on the brink of extinction. 


By employing former sea turtle egg poachers as sea turtle conservationists, we will be able to maintain traditional livelihoods, increase environmental awareness, and help protect a dwindling species critical to the coastal ecosystem. Additionally, promoting alternative income-generating initiatives that are less harmful to the environment will ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. Placing women and youth in leadership roles will not only increase agency among under-represented segments of society, but also ensure greater community participation in conservation activities. Through the empowerment of women and youth and by establishing local infrastructure and a knowledge base of sustainable conservation techniques, this project will provide local communities with the tools necessary to affect long term conservation behavior, supported by viable livelihood options in the local fishery as an alternative to sea turtle egg poaching.


EcoViva partners with three grassroots organizations in Central America, the Mangrove Association, the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) and the Barra de Santiago Women’s Development Association (AMBAS). OYE provides youth leadership training, AMBAS provides women's empowerment experience and the Mangrove Association provides sea turtle conservation and sustainable fisheries knowledge. EcoViva brings all three organizations together and provide expertise, field staff, oversight, program evaluation and financial accountability to ensure the success of this project. 


EcoViva, along with marine biology and conservation researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, conducted beneficiary feedback by interviewing 17 members of AMBAS and an additional six male community members involved in varying degrees with AMBAS and their current conservation initiatives. 


Interview participants expressed that the projects conducted by AMBAS have raised the level of environmental awareness in the community of Barra de Santiago and contributed to more conservation-minded attitudes in this region overall. Interviewees expressed their concern for the state of their local natural resources and how the exploitation of resources is directly linked with the lack of steady sources of work.


They were in agreement that the community needs capacity building workshops and education initiatives that encourage women and men to learn and utilize alternative skills that will take pressure off of the natural resources, especially sea turtles. Additionally, interviewees and subjects had ideas for better ways to utilize tourism in the community. These ideas included guided eco-tourism experiences and educational signage that would provide jobs and give tourists from outside of Barra de Santiago a better understanding of the estuary's status as a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance and a greater respect for local wildlife.


Below are some quotes from the feedback sessions: 


“If the town can rely on business from tourism rather than [overexploiting] natural resources, this will be better for both the environment and the people.” 

– AMBAS member Evangelina


“In the last two years the fishing yield has decreased creating more poverty and lack of work. More resources should be dedicated to monitoring fishing practices and raising awareness regarding resource depletion.” 

– AMBAS member Evangelina


“Overall the hatchery is an asset to the community because they see how it is helping the sea turtle population and allowing the tortugueros collecting the eggs to earn a stable income. Before people only took the eggs for money, now they are collecting them for a cause.” 

– AMBAS member Dora


“People view sea turtle conservation as a benefit to future generations… we won’t see the impacts, but our grandkids will and they will be able to know the turtle.” 

– AMBAS member Dora


“I wish the hatchery could be open for longer than the six-month season. Sea turtles continue to nest even in the off-season. I would also like to see hatcheries on all nesting beaches in the country.” 

– AMBAS member Dora


“AMBAS supports the whole community of Barra de Santiago. They’re the ones who supported us and led the process of establishing these sustainable resource use groups and protected areas [for crabbing in the mangroves].” 

– Oscar, fisherman and sea turtle egg collector


AMBAS member Veronica told us that, “If there were no hatchery there would be no turtles.” and, “They [the community] wouldn’t have turtles or mangroves if it weren’t for AMBAS projects.”


“Women have a unique understanding of the issues in their community and have the willpower to join together to make a difference and share the work.” 

– AMBAS member Rosa


“My vision for the future includes more capacity building workshops for women and young people so the community can learn skills and create more jobs that do not rely so heavily on exploiting natural resources. I would like to see more jobs in tourism, and for this we need to conduct more cooking classes and workshops to learn how to make handicrafts and souvenirs. I envision a future where people do not have to sell sea turtle eggs, but can instead depend on other stable sources of work, such as ecotourism, for their livelihoods.” 

– AMBAS member Rosa


“I hope to see more young women join the organization to keep it going in the future.” 

– AMBAS member Rosa


“I remember sea turtle populations being more abundant in the past now sea turtles wash up dead on the beach regularly. I know that unsustainable fishing practices are causing the deaths. This type of behavior will not change until people have access to steady work. I hope in the future AMBAS will be able to offer more projects for people to participate in that will lead to sustainable work.” 

– AMBAS member Ana Maria

Explain your idea

First, we will build local capacity by empowering women and youth to participate in leadership roles for community-led conservation initiatives. Working with the group AMBAS, that operates the only women-run sea turtle conservation program in the region, we will encourage women’s leadership and participation in their community through local exchanges and workshops. We will select the most motivated young women to participate in the second phase of capacity building. Along with OYE, a well established and successful youth leadership organization, we will conduct an exchange program where the young Salvadoran women will participate in a week long leadership training and capacity building workshop in Honduras. OYE has over ten years of experience training young people through their Capacity-Building and Leadership Program, an integrated and dynamic training that educates, empowers and engages disadvantaged youth to break the cycle of poverty and become agents of positive change in their homes, schools and communities. The young women will emerge from OYE’s program empowered with the individual and collective leadership skills necessary to execute community engagement projects and will return to El Salvador equipped with the tools necessary to participate actively in innovative conservation initiatives. Second, we will support the creation of three women-run sea turtle egg hatcheries on heavily poached beaches with no current conservation program in place. In total the hatcheries will aim to incubate and release 100,000 sea turtle hatchlings per year. These community operated hatcheries will directly involve local stakeholders in monitoring and collection activities. Former poachers will participate in monthly workshops and training sessions concerning sea turtle conservation measures and protected areas management and then will be employed as registered sea turtle egg collectors, scouring nesting beaches at night and bringing the clutches of eggs back to the hatchery for incubation in return for compensation, instead of selling the eggs to the black market. This will allow community members to maintain the traditional livelihoods they rely on for survival and protect critically endangered and threatened sea turtle populations at the same time. Third, we will promote income generating alternatives to poaching such as ecotourism and sustainable fishing practices that reduce the occurrence of harmful techniques such as blast fishing and the incidental take of sea turtles as bycatch, as well as provide a more sustainable livelihood alternative to former sea turtle egg poachers. Since 2009, community fishers in the Bay of Jiquilisco have pioneered a new, more sustainable model of managing their fishery, known as “Pesca Limpia.” Over 150 fishers have turned away from unsustainable practices such as dynamite fishing by promoting environmentally friendly fishing techniques like hook and line, and installing artificial reefs.

Who Benefits?

Our beneficiaries for this project are traditionally underserved rural communities in the coastal region of El Salvador. These communities rely primarily on the viability of natural resources for their livelihoods. Nearly 45% of these rural households live in poverty, with a third of them surviving on less than $1 a day. Provided few alternatives in a stagnant rural economy, this population subsists on small-scale agriculture and artisanal fisheries, including a variety of fish, shrimp, shellfish, and land crabs, that are dependent on the health of the natural environment. In particular this project seeks to engage and empower young people and women - traditionally overlooked as leaders in conservation initiatives - to take an active role in the preservation of the natural resources they depend on for survival. The hatcheries we seek to establish will benefit three nearby beaches that currently do not have a hatchery program, and as a result, nearly 100% of nests are lost to poachers.

How is your idea unique?

This project is unique in our approach of promoting community-led resources management and empowering traditionally under-represented segments of the population to take on leadership roles in conservation initiatives. There are many sea turtle conservation initiatives, but not many are community-based, and fewer still are focused on ensuring young women take on leadership roles. Rather than exclude local resource users, this project engages them directly in the implementation of conservation activities that will protect the long-term viability of the environment that they depend on. Excluding resource users from natural areas the subsist upon often creates conflict and instills resentment in local communities, who then have little incentive to uphold environmental regulations that are thrust upon them. In contrast, involving them in the decision-making process and encouraging participation in conservation activities creates agency and ensures more sustainable outcomes.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

EcoViva works in partnership and solidarity with community-led organizations in Central America to achieve environmental sustainability, economic security, social justice, and peace. We believe that local communities themselves are in the best position to ensure the ecological viability of their resources. EcoViva provides financial and technical assistance to build long-lasting local capacity necessary to integrate environmental stewardship with community development, youth empowerment, and women’s leadership promotion. EcoViva’s community partners include the Mangrove Association, a grassroots organization that serves vulnerable rural communities in the Bay of Jiquilisco, home to Central America’s most extensive mangrove forest. Our work with the Mangrove Association has led to measurable advances in sea turtle conservation, improved rural livelihoods in agriculture, forestry and fisheries management, and improvements in domestic policies on sustainable fisheries, mangrove restoration, and community co-management of natural protected areas. Our collaborative work in the Bay of Jiquilisco has been recognized throughout El Salvador. In northern Honduras we partner with the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE), a youth-led development NGO inspired by a vision of a society where youth have the knowledge and skills to become empowered young leaders and create positive change in their lives and communities. While not replacing formal education, OYE seeks to supplement, facilitate, and go-beyond what at-risk Honduran youth learn in their home and school environment. Approaching development and leadership from a dynamic point of view, OYE engages and builds youth leaders through partial, merit-based high school and university scholarships, a Capacity-Building and Leadership program and community engagement initiatives in health, conservation, the arts and sports. In 2015, OYE received the International Spotlight Award from the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards for their innovative youth programming. We also work with the Barra de Santiago Women’s Development Association (AMBAS) in El Salvador’s western coast, that operates the only women-run sea turtle conservation program in the region. AMBAS also manages mangrove restoration projects to restore the natural hydrology of the estuary, conducts livelihood trainings for low-income women, and engages artisanal fishers in sustainable natural resources management practices. EcoViva and our local partners in El Salvador have provided the financial and technical resources necessary to foster a locally-led vision for sea turtle conservation. Over the years, our joint efforts with community leadership have fomented a greater culture of conservation and protection of sea turtles. Through community-run hatcheries, environmental education programs, and sustainable alternative livelihoods, EcoViva and our local partners have contributed to saving more than 1.4 million sea turtles.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Attachments (1)

EcoViva_UserMap.pdf

User Experience Map

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[CONTINUED]

Other questions or suggestions our experts felt would support the assessment or success of your idea:
• I agree this is an important topic, but I don’t feel you’ve strongly made the case for why it is urgent. Are sea turtles necessary/important for local tourism activities which boost the local economy? More information here would strengthen proposal
• What is the economic incentive to promote their conservation? What are some of the quantitative and qualitative data points you are measuring? What are some examples of alternative livelihood techniques that could replace the income of egg poaching? Are there really enough conservationists jobs to counter poaching opportunities? Will compensation for returning eggs to hatcheries compare to what they could make for selling them on the black market? Who will pay these people, and with what $
• Additional concerns: - what is the participation of AMBAS in the selection of the young women leaders? - is there a mentoring role for older women members of the AMBAS to the young women? - how will the project engage older male leaders, young male leaders? - what is the strategy of the project in engaging the poachers? what would be the role of young women leaders in this transformation? - will the conversation projects of the young women connect with the hatchery projects? - what are the strategies to promote sustainable fishing practices? who will be the key change agents for this process? how will this connect with the conversation activities of the young women leaders?

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.

Looking forward to reading more!

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Hello OpenIDEO,

Thank you very much for this expert feedback - it contains very insightful and constructive feedback and the process of addressing the questions has strengthened our project and approach in a positive way. Below we address the questions posed by the expert:

I agree this is an important topic, but I don’t feel you’ve strongly made the case for why it is urgent. Are sea turtles necessary/important for local tourism activities which boost the local economy? More information here would strengthen proposal:

Sea turtles are considered keystone species, a species which an ecosystem depends on to maintain a proper biological balance. The loss of such a keystone species would result in drastic changes to the ecosystem. As keystone species, sea turtles play an important role in both ocean and land-based ecosystems. They keep the population levels of other species in check, including jellyfish and sponges, which helps maintain biodiversity and balances the complex ocean food-web. Nesting females improve nutrient-cycling processes on beaches and provide a food source for an array of flora and fauna. Sea turtle grazing on seagrass beds maintains the overall health of this delicate ecosystem.

The conservation of sea turtles is not only essential to a healthy ocean and planet, but also to the sustainable livelihoods of communities that rely on them for tourism revenue. According to a World Wildlife Fund survey from 2009, tourism initiatives around sea turtle conservation bring in at least three times as much revenue as the sale of turtle products, including eggs. The community of Barra de Santiago has incredible potential as a site for increased ecotourism around sea turtle conservation because of location, scenic beauty, safety, accommodations, and local community organization.

Facing overwhelming pressure from the illegal sea turtle egg trade, destructive fishing practices, habitat loss, and a lack of environmental education, sea turtles in Central and South American waters are on the verge of extinction. Sea turtle populations and their seasonal nesting habitat face continued threats from climate change, deforestation, pollution, large-scale agricultural development, and overexploitation of natural resources. The persistent socioeconomic conditions within many Salvadoran coastal communities exacerbate these threats, and sea turtle egg poaching continues to serve as a primary or important secondary source of income for many individuals and families. In addition, a reliance on nondiscriminatory fishing techniques that employ explosives and industrial chemicals continue to kill and otherwise negatively impact endangered sea turtles.

What is the economic incentive to promote their conservation?

The most direct economic incentive to promote sea turtle conservation is compensation for sea turtle eggs delivered to the hatchery. The program also offers opportunities for training in sustainable fishing practices which provide an alternative income-generating activity. Long-term incentives include increased tourism revenue from sea turtle-related ecotourism initiatives.

What are some of the quantitative and qualitative data points you are measuring?

Quantitative data include ecological indicators such as number and species of adult females seen nesting, number and species of eggs incubated, number and species of hatchlings released, number of turtle collectors, etc. Community engagement indicators include number of meetings, workshops and events carried out, as well as number of participants (and gender makeup of participants) attending events, trainings, and meetings. In collaboration with the University of El Salvador Marine Science Institute (ICMARES) we collect fisheries statistics such as species composition, quantity and size of seafood caught, price of sale per pound of seafood, and annual household income of members of sustainable fishing cooperatives; fish population statistics including population sizes and biomass increases, species composition, and spatial distribution.

Qualitative data include participant surveys to measure strengths, weaknesses, and impact of capacity-building workshops, hatchery programs, and sustainable income generating initiatives.

What are some examples of alternative livelihood techniques that could replace the income of egg poaching?

Eco-tourism (guides, accommodation providers, food vendors, hatchery workers), small businesses (bakeries, restaurants, hotels, boat motor-repair shops, etc.), sustainable fishing, diversified agriculture, park rangers, etc.

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Team

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Are there really enough conservationist jobs to counter poaching opportunities?

The idea is not to employ the poachers as full-time conservationists, but to provide income through bringing eggs to the hatcheries that would replace the income they would otherwise receive from selling eggs on the black market. Additionally, as a value add, the project will build the capacity of the poachers to participate in alternative income-generating activities as listed above.

Will compensation for returning eggs to hatcheries compare to what they could make for selling them on the black market?

Yes, the price is based on the black-market price and meant to provide competitive compensation with, and in many cases higher compensation than, the black-market.

Who will pay these people, and with what $?

AMBAS will be responsible for the disbursement of funds on a bi-weekly basis, with financial oversight from EcoViva. Money will come from funding organizations including FIAES and EcoViva as well as from future eco-tourism initiatives.

Additional concerns: - what is the participation of AMBAS in the selection of the young women leaders?

AMBAS will select all of the women participants of the program. They have a long history in the community and are in the best position to identify and recruit young women to participate in the initiatives.

Is there a mentoring role for older women members of AMBAS to the young women?

Yes, the more senior members of AMBAS will be involved in the selection of the young women as well as mentoring them and acting as role models for them as they advance through the training process.

How will the project engage older male leaders, young male leaders?

AMBAS already engages heavily with male leadership in the community, both young and old. They work directly with local fishers, crabbers, sea turtle egg collectors, and other male community members through their existing hatchery, trash cleanup initiatives, and mangrove restoration activities. Through our beneficiary feedback phase we surveyed many male community members with varying levels of engagement with AMBAS and found they have a positive relationship with AMBAS and requested more programs and initiatives similar to the sea turtle egg hatchery and community conservation activities.

What is the strategy of the project in engaging the poachers?

The existing hatchery AMBAS runs already has a history of engagement with former sea turtle egg poachers and will use that experience gained and knowledge learned to engage new poachers in nearby beaches that have yet to establish hatchery programs. Through grassroots community organizing, the women of AMBAS have shown poachers that they can continue to earn a livelihood while at the same time contributing positively to the environment.

What would be the role of young women leaders in this transformation?

We believe strongly in the potential of young people to become agents of change in their communities. Provided with the skills and resources they need, the young women will learn from the older women of AMBAS who have experience with the hatchery program and engaging with poachers, and will play a pivotal role in the transformation of poachers into sea turtle conservationists. They will take the skills they learn in the training sessions with the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) as well as the knowledge and perspective of current AMBAS members to directly engage poachers and convince them of the benefits to themselves, through economic incentives and alternative livelihood opportunities, and to the environment, of sea turtle conservation.

Will the conservation projects of the young women connect with the hatchery projects?

Yes, the conservation projects will use the hatchery as the initial point of contact with the resource users. The sea turtle egg collectors engaged with the hatchery will be the primary group that will be involved in other conservation efforts such as sustainable fishing initiatives.

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Team

What are the strategies to promote sustainable fishing practices? who will be the key change agents for this process?

The practice of blast fishing, where explosives are used to kill fish, is a destructive method that is still used by fishers in El Salvador. This method is non-selective, killing juveniles and adults of target and non-target species and threatens the reproductive capability of the entire fishery. Blast fishing is one of the biggest threats to endangered sea turtles in El Salvador. Blast fishing presents a clear and present danger—to sea turtles, fishers themselves and their future livelihood in the fishery.

EcoViva and our partners the Mangrove Association have pioneered a more sustainable alternative to blast fishing, known as “Pesca Limpia” or Clean Fishing. Pesca Limpia sets standards and best practices for small-scale fisheries restoration and management. We work closely with community members, local law enforcement, and government authorities to understand and reduce blast fishing and promote more sustainable options like hook and line and artificial reef deployment. This includes coordinated patrols of fishing zones, community outreach, and assistance to local fishing cooperatives who switch from blast fishing to more sustainable fishing practices. It has strengthened a long-term collaboration between fishing communities and local scientists in order to better manage unique resources like those of the Bay of Jiquilisco, the region’s most prominent fishery and a driver of economic development.

In the Bay of Jiquilisco, EcoViva works with over 200 small scale fishers from local fishing cooperatives and scientists at the University of El Salvador (UES) Maritime Science Institute (ICMARES) to promote Pesca Limpia practices and manage an overarching monitoring network of fish populations corresponding to local sustainable fishing zones.

For this project, we will replicate the Pesca Limpia model of sustainable small-scale fisheries management. We will introduce the Pesca Limpia method to Barra de Santiago by bringing community experts from the successful program in the Bay of Jiquilisco to train former sea turtle egg poachers and interested fishers from Barra de Santiago. Via peer-to-peer training using popular education methods, fishers will exchange knowledge and experiences to adapt the model to the reality of conditions in Barra de Santiago and help develop a set of standards and best practices for a community-based sustainable fisheries management.

We will continue to consult with our partners at ICMARES to use their existing monitoring data from Barra de Santiago to further refine the method to local conditions, fishery statistics, and fish population trends.

How will this connect with the conservation activities of the young women leaders?

The women of AMBAS will be actively engaged in the process of introducing Pesca Limpia to small scale fishers of Barra de Santiago. They will host the trainings and help facilitate the workshops between community leaders from the Mangrove Association, fishers from the Bay of Jiquilisco Pesca Limpia cooperatives, and former sea turtle egg poachers from Barra de Santiago interested in pursuing alternative fishing practices as an income generating opportunity.

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