(3.4) Wallace J. Nichols, Founder/Co-Director, Ocean Revolution; Research Associate, Department of Herpetology, California Academy of Sciences
TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN: GRASSROOTS NETWORKS, KNOWLEDGE AND COMMUNICATION LEADING TOWARDS A CONSERVATION SUCCESS STORY
In 1990 things were very bad for sea turtles in northwestern Mexico. The president had decreed a permanent moratorium on their hunting, collecting, use or sale but the black market filled the void due to a lack of enforcement and popular support. Experts agreed that it was too late for Baja’s sea turtles. Our academic advisors and funders suggested we not bother trying. Twenty years later we are telling a much different story. Sea turtles represent a rare bright spot on the conservation landscape, thanks to the innovative and sometimes controversial approach of the Grupo Tortuguero Network. Turtle hunters and consumers have taken on the role of researchers and protectors in fifty communities spanning 3,000 miles of coastline. While threats remain, populations are now increasing, dozens of community-based organizations are leading the way, and the Grupo Tortuguero network is holding its fifteenth annual meeting. At the core of these successes are an understanding of open-source movement building, neuroconservation and the value of emotional diversity. The model, known as the Conservation Mosaic, has been exported around the world to Cuba, Indonesia, El Salvador, Japan and Chile through a series of exchanges and consultations. Declaring this a conservation success story would be premature, but populations and attitudes are moving in the right direction: up.