SEE Turtles

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 SEE Turtles is a sea turtle conservation organization that leads volunteer and educational trips to participate in sea turtle conservation programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Member since: 05 Apr 2018

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

 To maximize positive impacts to sea turtle conservation and local communities, SEE Turtles will:
• Work with local organizations to bring travelers and volunteers to their research and conservation sites in the most beneficial way to the turtles, other wildlife, and communities.
• Actively engage local researchers to ensure that our guidelines take local realities into account and ensure our suppliers follow these guidelines. Our itineraries are built in consultation with local organizations and suppliers to determine how to best support conservation and the community. Our partners review all promotional materials accuracy and appropriateness.
• Every visit to a sea turtle project benefit conservation efforts and local residents. In addition to fees and payments to local organizations and businesses, all SEE Turtles trips include a donation to conservation efforts that is given to community-based organizations through our Billion Baby Turtles program

We prioritize local businesses on these trips, including as much as possible hotels, restaurants, and other places that are owned and run by residents. We work with local organizations to prioritize businesses supportive of conservation efforts.

Environmental responsibility

If not properly controlled, tourism and the resulting coastal development, can itself become a threat to turtles, other wildlife, and local communities. SEE Turtles takes several steps to prevent the negative impacts of tourism. Our best practice guidelines are helping local groups, operators, government agencies, and tourists to educate themselves on how to reduce their impacts on wildlife while on vacation. These guidelines resulted from consultations and interviews with more than 30 representatives of 22 conservation groups, tour operators, and government agencies. The practices, which can be found here, range from reducing direct impacts while swimming with turtles or on nesting beaches, as well as protecting beach habitat, ocean-friendly travel tips, and supporting local communities.

Traveler Code of Conduct:

Respect For Sea Turtles And Other Wildlife
• Follow all rules and guidelines provided by local partners when around sea turtles or in sea turtle habitat;
• Allow project staff and guides to take the lead in any research and conservation activity including beach patrols and in-water monitoring;
• Do not touch or get too close to any wild sea turtles or other wildlife while in the water on a beach (unless specifically permitted to by local researchers);
• Seek out souvenirs that are not made from materials that threaten local wildlife or fauna, including those made from the shell of sea turtles;
• Never feed any wild animals; and
• Leave behind any natural objects including coral or rocks.

Reduce Environmental Impact
• Reduce the use of disposable plastic items including water bottles and plastic bags by bringing your own reusable bottles and bags and avoiding straws where possible (we will provide clean drinking water to fill bottles with);
• Choose environmentally-friendly options during meals, including sustainably-caught sea food;
• Never litter or leave trash behind and actively participate in beach clean-up efforts when organized; and
• Minimize water and energy usage by turning lights off when leaving rooms, reusing towels for more than one shower, turning off faucets when not using them.

Carbon Reduction
Sea turtles are as susceptible to climate change as any other wildlife and will be severely affected by rising sea levels, bleaching coral reefs, and rising temperatures. SEE Turtles believes that reducing carbon emissions is everyone’s responsibility and that governments must take strong, mandatory action to reducing carbon in our atmosphere. Our trips, where possible, include tree planting as a way to educate people about the effects of climate change. We encourage our travelers to reduce their carbon emissions in our turtle watching guidelines and through pre and post-trip materials. We use our outreach methods including enewsletters, blogs, etc. to promote efforts to pass climate change legislation and promote climate-friendly lifestyles.

While we encourage clients to purchase their own carbon offsets, we do not currently offset the emissions of our clients. We believe that offsets can be an effective way to take action, though we prefer to focus on generating resources for community-based conservation efforts and that offsets not supporting this goal take away from this goal. As the project grows and more clients visit our partner sites, we hope to support efforts in these communities to reduce their emissions, where travelers can see the benefits of their support.

Waste & Water Reduction
One of the biggest threats to sea turtles around the world is marine debris, most commonly plastic bags. Some species of sea turtles confuse the bags for jellyfish, a primary food source; when swallowed these bags clog the turtles throats, preventing them from feeding. SEE Turtles takes several steps to reduce the creation of waste and litter on our tours. Trips generally include beach clean-ups, often in partnership with local organizations, to clean up turtle nesting beaches.

In Costa Rica, we provided a grant to support an innovative plastic bag recycling program managed by our partner WIDECAST Latin America. This program trains cooperatives of local women to recycle bags into attractive handbags, which are sold in hotels and to our clients. We provide where possible reusable plastic water bottles to clients to reduce the use of disposable bottles and provide water to clients. We also promote travelers to prevent creating waste, disposing of it properly, and supporting clean-up efforts through our best practices and outreach.

Social responsibility

Traveler Code of Conduct:

• Use locally-owned businesses wherever possible, including hotels, souvenir shops, guides, and restaurants and be sure to tip appropriately. Supporting local communities on our trips is an important way to ensure that residents support conservation efforts and visitors to their communities and ensure that more money is kept in the places where it is needed most;
• Be respectful of local customs and norms, especially those related to dress and behavior in public and bargaining at markets. SEE Turtles will provide any relevant information including cultural norms and current political and social situations in each location in advance of the trip; and
• Follow all rules and regulations when visiting community sites, historical locations, or protected areas.

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