SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 14, July 2016 - Page 82

In addition, tourists can be educated to make sure that they make as small of an impact as they can. When tourists wander into the office of the STC in the town of Bocas del Toro, Zamora does her best to inform tourists not just about sea turtles but about all of the threats that face the environment in Bocas del Toro. She wishes to promote ecotourism by enhancing the community-based projects that already exist in Bocas del Toro. For example, tourists often come to the beaches of Bocas del Toro to try and catch a glimpse of the leatherback sea turtle. By training the guides who take tourists on excursions to see these animals, the STC makes sure that the tourists will be taught to not disturb the turtles, while giving locals a way to be employed in an occupation that protects the environment. Other events hosted by the STC, such as “World Sea Turtle Day”, “Nature Festival”, and “Recycling Fair”, educate and entertain both tourists and locals. Zamora definitely sees a way to synergize tourism and local marine conservation in Bocas del Toro and views tourism as an agent of change. In her opinion, tour operators and hotels could enhance tourists’ environmental role through the inclusion of conservation initiatives on tours. All of this could take place through simple additions to tours, such as trash monitoring or species identification.

Both the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Sea Turtle Conservancy are making great strides to aid conservation efforts in the local community of the town of Bocas del Toro. Although there is far to go to restore the marine environment throughout the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, there is great potential through the collaboration of tourism and local conservation initiatives to do so.

Photo Credits: Page 78 Yusan Yang, Page 80 - 81 Rick Stuart-Smith, Right: Rick Stuart-Smith

Alexandra Yingst is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in biological sciences, sociology, and international studies. She will be starting graduate work in coastal and marine management at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland this fall.