OC draws tourist press to aid sea-turtle efforts

WASHINGTON: The Ocean Conservancy (OC) recently unveiled a media and grassroots effort promoting tourism that supports local sea turtle conservation efforts in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad.

WASHINGTON: The Ocean Conservancy (OC) recently unveiled a media and grassroots effort promoting tourism that supports local sea turtle conservation efforts in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Trinidad.

OC is reaching out to travel and environmental reporters, as well as travel agents at trade shows around the US, seeking to encourage responsible travel that bolsters local community efforts to protect sea turtles from overfishing and other threats.

Design firm Fuzion created the branding behind the campaign, including the Web site and informational materials.

Kelly Ricaurte, OC media relations manager, said messaging focuses on positive changes tourists can make on sea-turtle sites, thereby creating a "sense of empowerment" for travelers. The group seeks to share stories of local fisherman and their conservation efforts with the press and potential travelers. It will also use the Web site as a forum for tourists to share their experience visiting the sea-turtle sites.

Additionally, the campaign aims to leverage as much as possible the "compelling visuals and charisma" of the turtles, she said.

Cesareo "Charo" Castro is serving as a primary source for media interviews. He is an ex-fisherman from Baja California Sur, Mexico, who is now a sea-turtle tourism operator and local conservationist. The OC is looking to sponsor media trips to help generate compelling coverage of the three conservation sites. Additional sites around the world may be added to the program in 2009.

"Hopefully, in 2008 we'll try to offer a trip to journalists, to take them to one of those locations," Ricaurte said. "That way they can actually experience the sea turtles first hand and get to meet some of the local conservationists that travelers are supporting by going for our program."

Ricaurte said the sea turtle conservation effort is the group's main wildlife protection program at present, though it has of late also been conducting outreach advocating protection of right whales in the Northeast US, encouraging the use of fishing lines by Maine lobstermen that is less likely to entangle the whales.

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