Prominent Sea Turtle Biologists Randall Arauz of Costa Rica and Dr. Wallace J. Nichols of Davenport, CA, Join Turtle Island Restoration Network Board
Olema, CA. Turtle Island Restoration Network announced this week that Randall Arauz, director of the Costa Rican environmental organization PRETOMA, and Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, of Davenport, CA, have joined the organization’s board of directors.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is a nonprofit environmental organization that sponsors initiatives including the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network and the Got Mercury Campaign.
“I am very happy to welcome Randall Arauz and Dr. Wallace J. Nichols to the Turtle Island board. They are leaders in the worldwide efforts to study and protect sea turtles and other marine wildlife and their dedication and persistence is inspiring. Our board and staff are excited to engage J. and Randall in our expanding organization and community,” said Todd Steiner, founder and executive director of Turtle Island and its initiatives.
Biologist and activist Randall Arauz was born in Los Angeles, California. Raised by the seaside, he developed a passion for the ocean. At the age of 10, he returned with his parents to their native home in Costa Rica where he developed a deep affinity with the marine natural history of the country. After receiving a degree in Biology at the University of Costa Rica, he served as the first director of the Las Baulas National Park of Costa Rica, established to protect the region’s endangered leatherback turtles.
From a base in San Jose, Costa Rica, Arauz began leading Turtle Island’s efforts in Central America in 1994. He worked with Turtle Island director Todd Steiner to establish the first nesting beach protection programs that engaged travelers in protecting sea turtles and provided local communities economic alternatives to egg harvesting. Today, the program protects 70,000 sea turtle eggs each year at five critical nesting beaches in Costa Rica.
Advocacy for protections for sea turtles and other marine species was a natural outgrowth of the hands-on protection program. In 1997, Randall founded PRETOMA (an acronym for “Sea Turtle Restoration Project” in Spanish), a non-governmental organization focused on protecting Costa Rica’s sea turtles, sharks, and other marine species and their coastal and ocean habitats through advocacy and grassroots campaigns.
In 2003, PRETOMA secretly captured footage of a Taiwanese fishing vessel landing 30 tons of hacked-off shark fins at a private dock in the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas. Approximately 30,000 sharks were killed to fill the ship’s hull. The footage horrified both Costa Ricans and the international community and helped galvanize PRETOMA’s campaign for better enforcement of the nation’s laws against shark finning.
Randall won the United Kingdom’s most presitigious international environmental award in 2004, the Whitley Fund For Nature Award, in recognition of the importance of his work. He has served as a technical advisor to the Costa Rican Ministry of Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs at important forums such as the United Nations Law of the Sea, and the Convention for Migratory Species.. He currently serves in both the the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and the IUCN Sea Turtle Specialist Group.
“Working with Turtle Island Restoration Network and Todd Steiner really enabled me to become an effective advocate for marine species, rather than just a biologist,” said Randall Arauz. “Todd Steiner has supported my work and helped me move Costa Rica towards upholding its environmental image. I am pleased to join the board of Turtle Island and support this organization’s future.”
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, known as “J”, has founded marine protection organizations including Grupo Tortuguero, dedicated to restoring Pacific sea turtles, WILDCOAST to protect coastal wilderness and Ocean Revolution, working to inspire the next generation of ocean conservation leaders. Recently, he co-founded SEEturtles.Org which engages people in conservation by helping them view sea turtles and other species in the wild. J. holds a PhD from the University of Arizona, degrees from Duke and Depaugh Universities and was granted a Fulbright Fellowship.
Dr. Nichols also currently works with several universities and organizations to advance ocean protection, including California Academy of Sciences as a Research Associate. His efforts have been featured in National Geographic, Scientific American, Time, Newsweek and other international media.
“I feel like I’ve undertaken the task of engaging communities of many different kinds in sea turtle and marine conservation. Turtle Island’s work has been an inspiration to me and I look forward to being a part of the organization’s work to reach new communities and mobilize them as well,” says Dr. Nichols. His work has taken him from coastal villages in Mexico where he works to demonstrate the value of saving sea turtles to artisanal fishermen, to Hollywood, where he worked with Leonardo DiCaprio on the environmental documentary, The 11th Hour.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is a tax-exempt organization with a mission to take swift and decisive action to protect and restore marine and aquatic species and their habitats, and to inspire people in communities all over the world to join us as active and vocal advocates.
The organization’s oldest and largest initiative, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (www.seaturtles.org), was founded in 1989 to protect sea turtles and their ocean habitat globally. The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (www.spawnusa.org), founded in 1997, protects California’s largest remaining run of wild, endangered coho salmon in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed. The organization’s Got Mercury Campaign (www.gotmercury.org), founded in 2002, informs people about the personal impacts of ocean pollution, and mercury in seafood in particular. Turtle Island has received the highest four-star rating for financial effectiveness for five years in a row from CharityNavigator.Com.