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Leatherback Ecotourism Development, Implementation, and Outcome Assessment in St. Kitts, West Indies
- Stewart, Kimberly M., Norton, Terry M., Tackes, Dana S., Mitchell, Mark A.
- Chelonian Conservation and Biology 2016 v.15 no.2 pp. 197-205
- Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, Dermochelys coriacea, Eretmochelys imbricata, ecotourism, foraging, livelihood, monitoring, nesting, sea turtles, surveys, tourists, Caribbean, Saint Kitts
- The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) is a community-based sea turtle conservation organization operating in St. Kitts, West Indies. Four species of either nesting and/or foraging sea turtles have been recorded in the area around St. Kitts, including leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta). An open fishing season for sea turtles is active in St. Kitts and Nevis from 1 October through 28 February annually. In 2006, sea turtle fishers in St. Kitts were assessed by the SKSTMN through a survey process to determine the status of sea turtle stocks in the St. Kitts area and to determine the feasibility of developing a local community-based ecotourism project focusing on sea turtles. Based on the results of this survey, the SKSTMN made the decision to develop alternative livelihoods for the fishers to serve as a replacement for the harvest. These included a Sea Turtle Technician Program and a St. Kitts Leatherback Ecotour Package. Prior to the development and implementation of the St. Kitts Leatherback Ecotour Package, a representative survey was prepared and distributed to 3 target groups: local citizens, tourists, and residents. A complete tour package was developed according to the survey results, and the package was offered during leatherback nesting seasons from 2009 to 2014. In 2014, an outcome assessment of the ecotourism initiative was conducted that consisted of electronic survey delivery to a subset of former ecotour participants. These initiatives have resulted in a decrease in the number of sea turtles harvested in St. Kitts annually and have also produced a number of sustainable technician positions for Kittitian citizens on the project.