Born Free USA Global Field Projects
(Taken from the Born Free Foundation website.)
The Born Free Foundation's David Jay talks to Catharine Muir, founder of Sea Sense, Tanzania.
How did your project begin?
I visited Mafia Island (close to Tanzania’s mainland) in 1990 to conduct a biodiversity survey and was struck by its beauty. But the pristine beaches were a slaughter ground for turtles and I wanted to do something to benefit the species and local communities.
Why are turtles special?
Turtles have lived in our oceans for millennia. But as human populations grow turtles are becoming increasingly vulnerable. In recent decades populations have plummeted and if we allow them to become extinct, we really will have failed.
Does marine conservation have special challenges?
I believe the main challenge is fisheries-related. It is fairly straightforward to protect coastal areas but controlling what happens at sea, such as incidental capture or pollution, is a major management feat that needs international cooperation.
Can local people be allies of conservation?
Yes definitely. We have seen a remarkable change in local attitude over the past six years due to public awareness, training and modest incentives.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love speaking to local people about how we can improve the situation and their livelihoods. We work with about 50 villages along the Tanzanian coast so there are lots of opportunities!
What’s your most memorable wildlife moment?
The first time fishermen brought me a green turtle they had caught — before our efforts, she would have been killed for the pot! And every time I see baby turtles hatching from a nest we’ve protected I feel the most amazing buzz.
How does Born Free help you?
Born Free was our very first donor, and without this support at the start we wouldn't have found other major donors. So, Born Free's ongoing commitment has been absolutely fundamental — I can't thank them enough!