Fisheries learning exchanges and sea turtle conservation: An effort between Mexico, Cuba and the U.S. to engage Cuban coastal communities in non-consumptive alternative behaviors
The purpose of this short communication is to describe the Third International Workshop on Sea Turtle Conservation and Fisheries Exchange that took place from April 22–30, 2009 on Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud [Isle of Youth]. A group of 28 fishers, conservationists, marine scientists and fisheries managers from Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. gathered at Siguanea Bay off the island’s southwest coast. The goals of the exchange were to 1) provide a forum for sea turtle experts and fishing communities in Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. to share experiences on conservation activities, 2) develop the scientific basis for future conservation in this highly biologically important region of Cuba, and 3) increase support by Cuban fishers for local sea turtle conservation efforts. During the exchange, participants met with local Cuban fishers about the challenges of conserving sea turtle populations while maintaining their fishing livelihoods, shared solutions developed by fishers to accomplish the same in Mexico, and undertook field and cultural activities. Key outcomes for the exchange include an improved understanding of sea turtle bycatch off the Isla de la Juventud, enhanced collaboration among the three nations in turtle conservation, and increased motivation by fishers to participate in sea turtle research and conservation. Additionally, as a direct result of this exchange, the community of Cocodrilo on the Isla de la Juventud has hosted annual sea turtle festivals that increase support for turtle conservation efforts by the local community.