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Open Access Research

Attitudes and local ecological knowledge of experts fishermen in relation to conservation and bycatch of sea turtles (reptilia: testudines), Southern Bahia, Brazil

Heitor de Oliveira Braga1* and Alexandre Schiavetti12

Author Affiliations

1 Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia e Conservação da Biodiversidade, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz - UESC, Rodovia Jorge Amado km16, Ilhéus, Brazil

2 Departamento de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais (DCAA), Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz – UESC, Rodovia Jorge Amado km16, Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2013, 9:15  doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-15

Published: 1 March 2013



The use of ethnoecological tools to evaluate possible damage and loss of biodiversity related to the populations of species under some degree of threat may represent a first step towards integrating the political management of natural resources and conservation strategies. From this perspective, this study investigates fishermen’s ecological knowledge about sea turtles and attitudes towards the conservation and bycatch in Ilhéus, Southern Bahia, Brazil.


Fishermen experts semi-structured interviews were performed using snowball sampling method. The interviews consisted of a series of questions relating to the fishermen’s profile, structure and work equipment, the local ecological knowledge of fishermen about sea turtles and bycatch, a projective test, attitudes towards turtle conservation and beliefs and taboos regarding turtles. Indicators for quantitative comparisons of respondents in terms of their broad knowledge and attitudes towards turtle conservation were created. Correlation analyses were made between indicators of knowledge and attitude as well as the relationship between education level and knowledge and attitudes.


Thirty experts were interviewed for the study. The local ecological knowledge and attitudes of fishermen towards the conservation of sea turtles were respectively medium (0.43) and moderate (0.69) according to experts (based on Likert scale and Cronbach’s Alpha). Potential areas of spawning were reported from Barra Grande to Una covering the entire coast of Ilhéus. Methods for identifying the animal, behavior, and popular names were described by fishermen. The most recent captures of turtles were attributed to fishing line, but according to the respondents, lobster nets and shrimp traps are more likely to capture turtles. Knowledge and attitudes were weakly inversely correlated (r = −0.38, p = 0.04), and the education level of the respondent showed a positive correlation with positive attitudes towards turtle conservation (H = 8.33; p = 0.04). Life history, habitat, specific and exogenous taboos, beliefs and the use of hawksbill turtle to make glasses and other handcrafts are also reported in the study.


Monitoring of spawning areas, preservation of traditional practices, strategies to moderate the use of fishery resources and the local ecological knowledge/attitudes can provide data to improve the conservation practices and management of sea turtles.

Marine turtle; Marine conservation; Taboos