Giving back has been a core value for our brands since the day we started. When Sea Dipped launched in 2016, we partnered with SEE Turtles, a non-profit that protects endangered sea turtles through unique conservation, volunteer trips and educational programs. Each piece from the Sea Dipped collection saves 10 turtle hatchlings, which is pretty amazing! Now, Hattie Banks also contributes to the sea turtles cause. For this week’s interview, we sat down with SEE Turtles co-founder, Brad Nahill, who will explain a little bit about the non-profit, their efforts and how we can all be just a little bit more mindful when it comes to preserving marine life.
1.What inspired you to start a non-profit supporting ocean conservation?
My first experience with sea turtles was after college when I went to Costa Rica to volunteer with a leatherback project. I didn’t know anything about these animals and wasn’t planning on making working with them my career. I had intended it to be a fun experience that added to my resume, but I fell in love with these animals and kept coming back to work with them. After about 2 years working on nesting beaches, I moved back to the states and spent a few years working in fundraising and ecotourism before my colleague Dr. Wallace “J." Nichols pitched the idea for SEE Turtles. We ran SEE Turtles as a project: first under Ocean Conservancy and later under the Ocean Foundation and Oceanic Society before making it an independent non-profit in 2017.
2. What is SEE Turtles?
SEE Turtles originally started as a way to support conservation through ecotourism. We did (and still do) support locally based conservation organizations and communities around Latin America by bringing travelers to participate in turtle research programs. Over the years, we added on additional programs to support field conservation, such as Billion Baby Turtles, which raises funds for important nesting beaches, and Too Rare To Wear which works to end the turtleshell trade, which you could read more about here.
3. How/why did you start SEE Turtles?
J. and I started SEE Turtles to help support small organizations with limited funds find volunteers and generate income through tourism for conservation and to support local communities. What we have seen in our combined 50 years of working with these animals is that when communities see economic benefits from protecting turtles, things like selling eggs and turtle meat on the black market stop.
4. What is SEE Turtles’ biggest accomplishment so far?
I think our biggest accomplishment so far is winning the Changemakers Award from the World Travel and Tourism Council - one of the biggest prizes in responsible travel. This award recognized our work in reducing demand for turtleshell products, saving nearly 2 million hatchlings at important nesting beaches, and generating more than $1 million for conservation and communities through our tours and programs.
5. What is Billion Baby Turtles?
Billion Baby Turtles is a program that aims to help support organizations working to protect the most important nesting beaches in the world. We raise funds through sponsors like Sea Dipped, individual donors, schools and our conservation tours. We then grant those funds to small organizations so they can hire local residents to patrol the beaches, keeping people and predators away and helping hatchlings reach the water. To date, we have given away more than 80 grants to 25 organizations in 13 countries totaling more than US $350,000, which has resulted in about 1.7 million hatchlings saved. And we will help save another 1 million in 2019 alone!
6. Can you tell us what we’d experience on a SEE Turtles Trip?
Our sea turtle conservation trips combine working with or observing sea turtles with cultural and outdoor activities. Each one is unique but they are all active, educational, and community-oriented. For example, people can stay in a remote research station in Costa Rica working with the giant leatherbacks or snorkel the beautiful reefs of Belize looking for turtles, dolphins, and manatees. Our Baja trip includes working with an in-water green turtle project where they are caught with nets to study and release, as well as meeting the “friendly” gray whales and snorkeling with whale sharks. We currently go to Costa Rica, Baja Mexico, Belize, and Colombia.
7. What can we expect from SEE Turtles in the next five years?
Over the next five years, we hope to grow Billion Baby Turtles to be saving more than a million hatchlings per year, to significantly reduce the demand for turtleshell products in important hotspots like Colombia and Indonesia, and to grow our tours, increasing both the number of travelers we bring to work with turtles and the number of places we bring people to benefit more communities.
8. What are some ways people can get involved directly with SEE Turtles?
There are lots of ways that people can participate in our programs. One great way is to join one of our trips which offer unique experiences that give back to conservation. People can also help save hatchlings by donating, purchasing a baby turtle adoption, or doing a Facebook fundraiser. Finally, travelers can help sea turtles by pledging to avoid buying turtleshell or by diving in a way that supports conservation and reduces threats.
9. How can we encourage others to help out in their every day lives?
We have put together a list of ways for people to help sea turtles every day, no matter how far you live from the ocean, such as reducing plastic waste. In addition, we have a set of guidelines for traveling in ways that support conservation that people can use and share with friends. The situation for sea turtles is challenging but we are making progress and can help bring these animals back with lots of help from everyone!