/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted a diverse group of private sector representatives in San Salvador today, encouraging them to join the sea turtle conservation effort. Sea turtles, which are an endangered species, nest along the Salvadoran coastline.
U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Robert Blau and representatives from USAID participated in a breakfast with business leaders and members of environmental conservation groups, along with two special guests: Biologist Wallace J. Nichols and Oceanographer and Environmental Economist Fabien Cousteau (grandson of Jacques Cousteau, the celebrated French sailor and researcher).
"The U.S. Government is pleased to support the efforts to protect and restore these important natural and economic resources," Blau said. "With the financial support of USAID, studies have been carried out which reveal that this country is the most important country in all of Latin America for the survival of the Hawksbill turtle."
The goal is to establish public-private partnerships to finance both the management of marine resources and the conservation of the turtle species, by raising $1.2 million over the next five years. These funds will aid in the collection, incubation, and release of at least 80 percent of the sea turtle eggs laid on the beaches in El Salvador.
Even just two years ago, human beings had consumed more than 95 percent of the turtle eggs in El Salvador. In February 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources established a complete and permanent ban on the sale and consumption of sea turtles and sea turtle products. As a result, diverse sectors of society are working together more effectively to increase the number of hatcheries in the country. These USAID-supported actions have resulted in the incubation of more than one million turtle eggs. Nevertheless, the challenges continue. Experts estimate that the species remains on the brink of extinction.
Within the sea turtle conservation component of the USAID Improved Management and Conservation of Critical Watersheds Project, USAID has supported the setup and operation of more than 30 hatcheries on beaches which are crucial for sea turtle reproduction. The program's achievements include: the protection of over 120 kilometers of coastline, the release of 900,000 newborn turtles, the development of ecotourism, and the awarding of a $400,000 direct economic incentive to tortugueros (poachers) who now work as beach keepers and are paid for egg collection and beach protection services. Additionally, the project has contributed to diminishing the demand for turtle eggs though a mass media campaign and has promoted a national strategy for the conservation of El Salvador's sea turtles.
It is because of these efforts that Fabien Cousteau is visiting the country. He forms part of the third generation of explorers in his family. Cousteau has proposed innovative solutions to achieve a balance between regional environmental problems and market realities. Together with his father, Jean-Michel Cousteau, he works to explore the oceans and raise awareness about the need to conserve the planet. Cousteau has also launched the Nature Entertainment program to share conservation efforts via the media. This year, he will support sea turtle conservation, motivating various countries to participate in order to release one billion baby turtles into the ocean. El Salvador will be the starting point of this effort, beginning with the inauguration of the hatchery season that is planned for May 7 at San Diego Beach, La Libertad.
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