Posted by Rick Civelli | 02.20.2013 | Turtle Talk

Swimming into the Sea Turtle Symposium

imagesEarlier this month, the world’s leading sea turtle biologists, conservationists, educators, policy makers, and researchers packed their bags, left their sandy beaches, and headed for the cold of the Baltimore. What drew them wasn’t the recent Super Bowl champions or even the world class Baltimore Aquarium, but the chance to meet and exchange ideas with their peers at the annual International Sea Turtle Symposium. And Sea Turtle Camp was right there in the thick of it learning new techniques, obtaining the more current scientific theories, and discussing past and future projects with our partners.

The sea turtle community is a diverse one, over 80 countries were represented with new information from Australia to Africa being shared. IMG_0132The different conservation approaches being used around the globe, all for the protection of seven species of turtles, is truly inspiring. The sea turtle community is also a dedicated one. As any person who has visited the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital can attest, these people do so much with so little. Countless hours are spent patrolling beaches, counting eggs, and staying up with a sick or injured turtle – often without pay.

Among the many new ideas shared were the following:

  • Successful ways to bring a sea turtle species back from the brink – as was the case with the Kemp’s ridley in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Ways to involve the communities in developing nations in conservation – the creation of 1300 jobs in Brazil has led to 100% coverage on nesting beaches
  • Why TED enforcement is so difficult in Louisiana – local politics competing with national ones have inhibited enforcement
  • Net illumination may be a future direction in conservation – sea turtles avoid the light and fish can’t see it because they filter out that spectrum
  • Necropsies reveal there is an increase in plastic consumption in greens, leatherbacks, and loggerheads – not surprising, but confirming what we have long been saying
  • Egg consumption still exists and isn’t isolated to affluence – most Nicaraguans first consume turtle eggs at the young ages of 7-18
  • Hatchlings change their crawl technique depending on whether they are climbing up an incline – there was even a robot available to model the differences
  • STCnRed and amber lights are the most difficult for sea turtles to see – which is why Florida conservation groups have advocated for implementation in new construction
  • Green sea turtles and loggerheads respond differently to beach renourishment campaigns – with the loggerheads generally returning quicker
  • Leatherbacks, once thought to be primarily pelagic, may have individuals that prefer coastal waters – though fishing pressure has a huge impact on their numbers

But the most important lesson learned is that once a conservation organization became established and began to implement education programs, research, and sea turtle care, the turtles did better. We are thrilled to be partnered with such organizations in North Carolina, Hawaii, and Costa Rica and look forward to continuing to be part of the solution!