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.
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.
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.