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A focus on flatback turtles: The social acceptability of conservation interventions in two Australian case studies

Ingrid E. van Putten*, Christopher Cvitanovic, Paris Tuohy, Ruby Annand-Jones, Michael Dunlop, Alistair J. Hobday, Linda Thomas, Shane A. Richards

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Human-induced climate change is a threat to marine species and ecosystems worldwide, including sea turtles. As climate changes are projected to intensify, directed management and intervention is required to safeguard the future of vulnerable species and ecosystems. Prioritisation tools that explore the cost-benefit-risk can help in the choice of interventions. However, an often-overlooked element underpinning the success of directed interventions is the extent to which they are perceived as acceptable by local communities (i.e. social acceptability). We assess the social acceptability for a range of adaptation interventions for flatback turtles (Natator depressus) in north-western Australia. A survey of residents in Port Hedland and Broome showed that flatback turtles (FBTs) are important to the identity of both towns and local FBT decline or extinction would have negative local social and economic impacts. In both locations, survey respondents expressed strong support for intervening to protect FBTs and there was broad agreement between respondents from both locations on the most and least acceptable interventions. For example, in both locations the most acceptable intervention was to restrict four-wheel drive beach access for locals and visitors and the least acceptable was to intervene genetically in the FBT populations. In the case of FBT conservation in Port Hedland and Broome, i) interventions that limit human behaviour, as opposed to interfering with the species themselves, are likely to be most socially acceptable, and therefore ii) are also most likely to be implemented successfully and avoid conflicts within the community.