Connecting international priorities with human wellbeing in low-income regions: lessons from hawksbill turtle conservation in El Salvador.
Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are highly endangered in the eastern Pacific Ocean, yet their eggs continue to be an important subsistence resource for impoverished coastal residents in El Salvador. In this study, we use naturalistic inquiry to explain the realities experienced by coastal residents who share habitat with hawksbills in El Salvador, and then suggest implications of the disparities between these realities and international priorities for hawksbill conservation and community development in El Salvador and other low-income regions. To provide a context for understanding hawksbill conservation and its implications for similar challenges related to conservation and wellbeing, we first summarise the conservation context, including the emergence of sea turtle conservation in El Salvador. We then describe our naturalistic approach, including the ethnographic methodology for this study. Finally, we detail the analysis of interviews conducted with tortugueros (i.e. local sea turtle egg collectors), to help explain how hawksbills fit into local realities. Our results demonstrate that, from the perspective of tortugueros, (1) the primary importance of hawksbills is the economic value attached to egg sales, but there exists a deeper connection to local culture; (2) egg purchase by hatcheries is a socially just conservation strategy that benefits both hawksbill and human wellbeing; and (3) opportunities for local residents to participate in decision-making regarding sea turtle conservation are limited, and should be increased. We argue that harmonising international conservation priorities with local community development realities is one path towards simultaneously contributing to long-term sea turtle recovery and human wellbeing in low-income regions.
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Liles et al. 2014_International Priorities & Human Wellbeing with Hawksbill