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Perceptions of fishers to sea turtle bycatch, illegal capture and consumption in the San Ignacio-Navachiste-Macapule lagoon complex, Gulf of California, Mexico



In this study, 10% of all registered fishermen in the coastal towns of Navachiste in Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico, answered a survey designed to collect data on their perceptions of the following topics: the impact of turtle meat consumption; human health; bycatch; illegal turtle fishing; the illegal sea turtle market; the local economy; pollution; environmental education; the success of protective legislation; and sea turtle-based ecotourism. Perceptions were analyzed using the fuzzy logic method through classification into 5 fuzzy membership sets: VL, very low; L, low; M, moderate; H, high; VH, very high. The 9 topics generated decision areas upon applying fuzzy inference that revealed the membership level of the answers in each fuzzy set. The economic potential of sea turtle-based ecotourism and the economic profitability of the illegal turtle meat market were perceived as VL. Conservation legislation was perceived as H, although inefficiently applied due to corruption. Ecotourism and impacts on sea turtles were perceived as VL, because they were deemed unprofitable activities at the individual and community levels. Environmental education was perceived as L, because it centers on nesting, hatching and releasing turtles and is directed at elementary and middle-school students. While fishers perceive a serious negative impact of fishing activities on sea turtles in the San Ignacio-Navachiste-Macapule area, they do not see themselves individually as part of the problem. Achieving sea turtle conservation in this region requires: suitable ecotourism infrastructure, government investments in promotion, and studies to estimate the minimum number of tourists needed to assure profitability.