World's largest-ever sea turtle symposium to address plummeting populations of sea turtles

02/05/04

Eleven hundred experts from seventy countries to attend

Washington, D.C., February 5, 2004 – The largest-ever symposium about the preservation of sea turtles, featuring more than 1,100 of the world's leading experts on sea turtle conservation from 70 countries, will be held in San Jose, Costa Rica at the Herradura Hotel and International Conference Center from February 22 to 29, 2004.

The release of the 2004 State of the Sea Turtles report at the end of the symposium will offer the most up-to-date information on the status of the world's sea turtles.

The world's seven species of sea turtles are under grave danger from threats including over-fishing, destructive fishing practices such as long-lining and trawling of the ocean floor, and the poaching of turtle eggs, regarded by some cultures as an aphrodisiac.

The leatherback sea turtle, which can grow to nine feet in size and up to 2,000 pounds and pre-dates the dinosaur, is one of the species on the brink of extinction. In 1982, 115,000 reproductive female leatherbacks graced the coastlines of the Americas in the Pacific Ocean. Today, just two decades later, that number has plummeted more than 97 percent to fewer than 3,000. Scientists believe that strong conservation measures can still have a dramatic impact, but recognize that their window of opportunity is shrinking.

"Sea turtles, such as the Kemp's ridley and leatherback, have been adversely affected by human mismanagement of the environment," said Rod Mast, Vice President of Conservation International and President of the International Sea Turtle Symposium. "In the past few centuries, humans have decimated sea turtle populations through habitat destruction and exploitation. Now, sea turtle populations are declining due to fishing practices, pollution and global warming."

The 24th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Conservation and Biology will focus on specific strategies that can be implemented immediately to protect the world's remaining sea turtles. The theme of the symposium is "Sea Turtle Lifescapes," and it will address how sea turtles affect humans and how humans, in turn, adversely affect them and their marine ecosystems. The primary goal of the conference is to identify actions we can take as institutions, governments and individuals to assure that sea turtles thrive.

Sea turtles are widely regarded as the "canaries of the oceans," since like the "canary in the coalmine, they act as indicators of future troubles in the world's oceans.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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