Monroe, WA, 2023-Feb-15 — /Travel PR News/ — To help address plastic pollution in the travel industry, SEE Turtles recently took over management of the TAP campaign in collaboration with Crooked Trails. SEE Turtles has been an active member and supporter of TAP since Crooked Trails began the project in 2012 to help end the use of single-use plastic in the tourism industry. In taking over TAP under the new Sea Turtles & Plastic program, SEE Turtles will work with tourism companies around the world to advocate for less plastic use and initiatives to clean up plastic pollution. Tour operators can help with this issue by encouraging their travelers to participate in beach cleanup activities and by bringing reusable water bottles or filters.
People often travel with the hope of observing wildlife, and watching sea turtles is incredibly popular around the world and accessible in many destinations. Encountering one of these animals in the wild – especially for someone who has not experienced wildlife watching previously – can be a transformative experience for travelers. Sea turtles are predictable and charismatic, easily appealing to children and adults alike. They are also at risk, and their survival increasingly depends on the tourism industry working to restore their populations around the world.
As with other wildlife, tourism can have many negative impacts on sea turtles. Travelers are the biggest consumers of tortoiseshell jewelry, which come from the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. All too often, buyers do not even realize what they are purchasing. Travelers may not be aware of how nesting beaches are particularly impacted by large hotels with bright lights, beach furniture, and overcrowding – all of which confuse nesting turtles and hatchlings. But plastic is perhaps the greatest threat. Plastic pollution affects these animals at every stage of their life, from hatching on a beach polluted with microplastics, to crawling through waste on the way into the water. Sea turtles often confuse plastic bags with jellyfish, their favorite food, and consume the bags which then get stuck in their stomachs.
A study by Travelers Against Plastic (TAP) and the ATTA showed that 60 percent of adventure travel operators, companies who specialize in visiting remote locations and whose livelihoods depend on a clean environment, still use single-use plastic bottles on their tours. This translates to nearly 7 million bottles from this industry alone, most of which end up in landfills since many countries do not have the infrastructure necessary to offer recycling programs. Even where recycling programs exist, such as in the United States, research shows that less than 10% of plastic is recycled due to the sheer volume of plastic produced.
Travelers Against Plastic will be part of SEE Turtle’s efforts to make the travel industry more sustainable, along with the “Too Rare To Wear” campaign that works to end the sale of illegal tortoiseshell jewelry and our sea turtle conservation trips. Tortoiseshell was used for thousands of years to make a wide variety of products that were traded around the world. Despite the fact that the international trade in these products has been outlawed since the 1990’s, the illegal sale of these products happens in many countries. When a traveler sees these products for sale in a shop or street vendor, it can be challenging for them to realize that they come from an endangered species. The “Too Rare To Wear” campaign works with more than 100 tour operators to educate travelers about this issue by offering tools like the new app SEE Shell, which uses AI to identify these products with just a photo, as well as simple guides to recognizing these products.
How Travel Businesses Can Get Involved
TAP aims to get single use plastic out of the tourism industry while helping to keep plastic waste out of natural areas in destinations around the world. The campaign works with tour operators and conservation organizations to encourage travelers to use less plastic while traveling and to participate in efforts to clean up plastic waste in the destinations where they visit and work.
These three steps are an easy way to commit to reducing plastic use wherever you operate:
- Take the pledge to reduce single use plastic
- Share tips for plastic-free travel with your partners, suppliers, and clients
- Learn more about TAP’s current projects and initiatives
There are also many actions that tourism businesses can take to support efforts to protect endangered sea turtles, particularly by including visits to conservation facilities in traveler itineraries. Bringing people to see and learn about these animals is a huge boost to local efforts, many of which depend on tourism revenue and volunteers to maintain operations. We saw during the pandemic that the loss of tourists and the income they bring is devastating to community-based conservation efforts in places where illegal hunting occurs. Operators and guides are also important to helping manage traveler behavior, ensuring that tourists don’t touch or disturb turtles nesting on the beach or in the water, and by helping travelers recognize tortoiseshell products and visiting souvenir shops that don’t sell these products.
SEE Turtles Sustainable Travel Sponsorships also offer tour operators the opportunity to advance sea turtle conservation efforts around the world. Funds go towards supporting efforts by coastal communities to clean up plastic waste and investing in equipment to recycle the waste into products locally as well as addressing the tortoiseshell trade. In addition, our staff can recommend locally-based projects to visit and provide resources to share with travelers including guides to traveling plastic-free, avoiding tortoiseshell, and reducing tourism impacts on sea turtles.
There has been great progress in restoring sea turtle populations around the world. Many beaches are seeing numbers of nesting turtles increase after decades of declines. Few industries can impact the many threats these animals face like the travel industry, which has been a key partner in many places in this success.
TAP is a campaign working to reduce plastic pollution in the travel industry. We work with tourism companies and conservation organizations to encourage travelers to avoid using plastic while traveling and to participate in and support efforts to clean plastic from travel destinations and support innovative recycling programs around the world.
The TAP campaign is managed collaboratively between SEE Turtles, a sea turtle conservation nonprofit, and Crooked Trails, a nonprofit that works to ensure that tourism is a positive force in the world. TAP was originally founded by the Chris MacKay, the former executive director of Crooked Trails, and Kurt Kutay, former owner of Wildland Adventures in 2013 as a campaign to educate travelers about the harmful impacts of disposable plastic water bottles and encourage travelers to be prepared to clean their own drinking water.
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About SEE Turtles
SEE Turtles was launched in 2008 as the world’s first effort to protect these species through ecotourism by conservationists Dr. Wallace J. Nichols and Brad Nahill. Originally begun as an Ocean Conservancy project, SEE Turtles was later fiscally-sponsored by the Ocean Foundation and most recently Oceanic Society. In 2016, SEE Turtles became an independent 501c3 non-profit based in Portland, Oregon. In recognition of our work to protect sea turtles around the world, the organization was awarded the prestigious Changemakers Award from the World Travel & Tourism Council and the Skal Sustainable Travel Award, and were most recently a finalist for the Go Blue Awards from Loggerhead Marine Life Center.
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Source: Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA)