Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Conservation Strategies with Application to the Pacific Leatherback Turtle

Gjertsen H, Squires D, Dutton PH, Eguchi T (2014) Cost-Effectiveness of Alternative Conservation Strategies with Application to the Pacific Leatherback Turtle. Conservation Biology 28:140–149. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12239

Although holistic conservation addressing all sources of mortality for endangered species or stocks is the preferred conservation strategy, limited budgets require a criterion to prioritize conservation investments. We compared the cost-effectiveness of nesting site and at-sea conservation strategies for Pacific leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). We sought to determine which conservation strategy or mix of strategies would produce the largest increase in population growth rate per dollar. Alternative strategies included protection of nesters and their eggs at nesting beaches in Indonesia, gear changes, effort restrictions, and caps on turtle takes in the Hawaiian (U.S.A.) longline swordfish fishery, and temporal and area closures in the California (U.S.A.) drift gill net fishery. We used a population model with a biological metric to measure the effects of conservation alternatives. We normalized all effects by cost to prioritize those strategies with the greatest biological effect relative to its economic cost. We used Monte Carlo simulation to address uncertainty in the main variables and to calculate probability distributions for cost-effectiveness measures. Nesting beach protection was the most cost-effective means of achieving increases in leatherback populations. This result creates the possibility of noncompensatory bycatch mitigation, where high-bycatch fisheries invest in protecting nesting beaches. An example of this practice is U.S. processors of longline tuna and California drift gill net fishers that tax themselves to finance low-cost nesting site protection. Under certain conditions, fisheries interventions, such as technologies that reduce leatherback bycatch without substantially decreasing target species catch, can be cost-effective. Reducing bycatch in coastal areas where bycatch is high, particularly adjacent to nesting beaches, may be cost-effective, particularly, if fisheries in the area are small and of little commercial value. Rentabilidad de Estrategias de Conservación Alternativas Aplicadas a Tortugas Laúd del Pacífico