CEM (Conservation des Espèces Marines or Conservation of Marine Species) is an African-European NGO founded in 2015. Their primary objective is to protect marine turtles at Côte d´Ivoire, the Ivory Coast, in West Africa.
The 40km long coast is where the olive ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea, the leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea, and the green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, successfully reproduce. CEM’s goal is to secure the remaining habitats along the coast for these turtles.
With the support of the local people and tourism industry a concrete plan has been put in place for the protection of the area; including its lagoons, mangroves, coastal rainforests, and beaches. The initiative began in 2012 with the support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and has been growing ever since.
International travellers demonstrate the value sea turtles have; if they remain in their natural the landscapes. Tourism can provide revenue for local well-being, more revenue than removing, harvesting, and selling the limited amount of turtle eggs.
Education is a practical way to change behaviour. Farmers, and local fishermen especially, think about their goods and how to provide for their families. With education and time, one will understand that the animals they base their lives around will eventually not be around anymore if egg harvesting continues.
There is little understanding for nature conservation in Côte d´Ivoire. Subsequently, their natural landscape is diminishing. There is a promising concept however for sustainable management that provides both incomes for the local communities and securing the future of their sea turtles.
Protected areas preserve biodiversity. In some places, they’re also used to see how conservation is more financially beneficial than its antithesis. Politicians and civil service systems already understand this concept. Still, implementation is lacking.
Côte d´Ivoire exports many valuable minerals and agricultural products; such as coffee, cacao, palm oil, and pineapples all over the world. International support is needed. Developed countries are responsible for protecting resources and have a major influence on sustainable practices.
Linking tourism and the sea turtle project, at Grand Béréby, is still in its infancy. The region is rich with beautiful beaches, unique landscapes, and picturesque views. There is a high potential for individual and nature-based tourism. They already have a strong motive to support establishing a protected coastal area.
On a voluntary and short-term basis, this protected area exist already. When the government approves the long-term plan and when practices are implemented on the ground, it will be an LT&C-Example, which could be profiled worldwide.
This example of the CEM-Project shows that already, with a tiny group of only 5 people, a larger population (ca. 3.000) can be reached to positively and voluntarily control a ca. 40km stretch of beach from turtle-egg harvesting.
It also shows that protecting a ~5.000 ha area is possible on a voluntary basis. Without the initiative and involvement of the local people, progress could not be made.
We can use this model as a reference for other areas. Tourism has been observed worldwide as a successful approach to protecting sea turtles.
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