International Smart Gear Competition

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World Wildlife Fund is calling on fishermen, gear technologists, engineers, students, inventors and anyone with a creative flair to submit their ideas for fishing gear designs that will reduce bycatch – the accidental catch and related deaths of marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species in fishing gears such as nets and longlines – to the Second International Smart Gear Competition. The competition will award a $25,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runner-up prizes to the designs judged to be the most practical, cost-effective methods for reducing bycatch. To enter the contest, go to for more details, rules and entry instructions. All entries are due by March 15, 2006. Entries must be submitted in English.

Conventional fishing gear often does not allow users to selectively target their catch. As a result, non-target fish species, marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species are caught and sometimes killed. More than 20 million metric tons – approximately 25 percent of what is caught in the course of fishing each year – is thrown over the sides of fishing boats dead or dying. Bycatch is the leading threat to many species of endangered marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds around the world.

Last year, WWF awarded three new practical solutions: a system for keeping longlines away from sea turtles by a former high-school biology teacher and commercial fisherman; changes to the chemical properties of fishing ropes and nets by a North American team; and modified trawls to reduce bycatch of undersized shrimp and fish by a team of Indian scientists familiar with the challenges of changing fishing practices and technologies in a developing country. The winner of the WWF International Smart Gear Competition will be decided by a diverse set of judges, including fishermen, researchers, engineers and fisheries managers from all over the world.



President, International Sea Turtle Society
ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, Solomou 57,
GR-10432 Athens, Greece


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Breaking the record of submitted abstracts

At the time of writing this note (end of November 2005) we are only four months away from the object of our efforts, the 26th Sea Turtle Symposium. I always knew that the Mediterranean was popular but I had not realized quite how much; we have surpassed all previous Symposia in the number of submitted abstracts. At the closure of the deadline for abstract submissions we had received 501 abstracts! Thank you all for your submissions. Of course, many of the “prefer oral” submissions will have to go as posters, as the oral time slots are limited and we will try to avoid, as much as we can, concurrent sessions. We shall give, however, enough time for poster sessions and interaction with poster authors. The Program Committee has a heavy task to accomplish but I am sure they will do fine.

Schedule and Program  

On 3 and 4 April we shall have the standard regional meetings (Africa, IOSEA, Mediterranean, RETOMALA, WIDECAST) and associated workshops. For more information on the regional meetings you can contact the respective coordinators (their contact details are available on the website).

On the main days of the Symposium (5-7 April), besides the Standard Sessions (announced in the website) and the two Special Sessions (Turtles and Climate Change, and Ecological Roles of Sea Turtles), we are scheduling a special session in memory of Peter Lutz. In this 3-hour session we will have some very important contributions on sea turtle biology. The organization of the Panel Discussion “Cooperative Approaches to Finding Sea Turtle Bycatch Solutions in Longline Fisheries” will provide the opportunity for those working with turtles at sea to be informed on recent findings. There will also be a special presentation by the IUCN’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) on various issues rendering a global interest.

On Saturday (8 April) we schedule in the morning the MTSG Annual meeting (0900-1200), and in the afternoon the Freshwater Turtle and Tortoise Session (1300-1800).

Translation: We aspire to be able to provide simultaneous translation mainly to French, for our French-speaking colleagues from Africa, but also, if possible, Spanish.

Fund-raising: Our fund-raising efforts are going fairly well. We have already registered some generous donors as the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Florida Power and Light, the Bern Convention, the UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan. Further, we have serious hopes of getting funds from the Disney Animal Kingdom, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the RAC/SPA in Tunisia, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece, and several other European and Mediterranean sources. For their help, advice and efforts regarding fundraising so far I would like to thank: Roderic Mast, Thane Wibbels, Nicolas Pilcher, Irene Kinan, Jeffrey Seminoff, Earl Possardt, Barbara Schroeder, Sheryan Epperly, Pieter Borkent, Eladio Galiano, Marco Barbieri, Paul Misfud and Maria Valerga. I would like to note here that ARCHELON, the Symposium local host organization, has drafted an agreement with Thanos Belalidis, the Symposium Coordinator, to undertake fund-raising within Greece for the Symposium. Hopefully, we will succeed in getting some much-needed funds from the host country.

Several companies and organizations have already promised to sponsor a coffee-break or part of it. We thank them very much. We need some more sponsors. I remind you that one coffee-break for 600 people will cost about 2,700 Euro (about 3,300 USD at the time of writing this) but we can do with less by splitting a coffee-break among several sponsors. Sponsors’ names will be acknowledged on site, unless they do not wish so. Please, consider this need and do your best to locate potential sponsors to cover this heavy Symposium expense.

Booking of Rooms: Although we are far from the room reservation deadline yet (1 March 2006), it is advisable to reserve your room now, as rooms will be reserved on a “first-in/first-served” basis. Please note that you can extend your stay at the hotel under the same prices. The hotel has a great flexibility in type of rooms and/or bungalows in various prices and configurations. You can do your reservation through the hotel’s website Please fill in all the requested items in the Hotel Booking Form. Make sure that you provide also the names of your roommates. If you encounter any difficulties, please contact Georgia Vlahou or Thanos Belalidis

Pre-Symposium Trips: For those of you who will have a stop-over in Athens we have some ideas on one-day trips to famous archaeological sites like Delfi and Mycenae. You can find these options by visiting Please contact them directly for any arrangements that suit you.

Registration and ISTS Membership: About 600 people have registered early (before 16 November 2005). I thank them all, especially those who have paid their fees because this helps us very much to proceed with preparations. You must register to attend the Symposium, and you can do that preferably through the Symposium website, where you can find all necessary information. The early-registration deadline has passed and now the registration fee is $150 for non-students and $75 for students (incl. membership to the ISTS). Please note that registration fees are higher if not accompanied by membership dues to the ISTS.

If, however, you prefer to mail your payments, please follow the instructions below:

Ask for a Registration Form from the address below (either through e-mail, fax or ordinary post) and, after you fill it, please mail it to the postal address below together with a cheque (in Euro, only), payable to the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.

ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece
Attn. Chrysanthe Otzakoglou
Solomou 57, GR-104 32 Athens, Greece
Tel./Fax: +30-210-5231342,

Please send the Registration Form and the cheque by using either registered mail or private courier. Do not forget to include the cheque together with the Registration Form. You will receive a confirmation as soon as the above have been received.

During your on-line (or postal) registration you will have the option of paying also for tickets to the Welcome Cocktail ($ 20) and the Farewell Party ($45 for non-students and $25 for students).

Proceedings: In this Symposium, we will make an attempt to have the Proceedings ready on-site. For this we shall need your help as follows: The authors of the accepted initial abstracts (250 words max) will have the opportunity to modify and/or extend their abstracts up to 500 words (without graphics or tables). This can be done on-line, through the Symposium website, by 15 February 2006 at the latest. Those unable to access the Symposium website can send their extended or modified abstracts to Theoni Karkoulia, either through e-mail to or by registered mail (or private courier) to ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, Attn. Theoni Karkoulia, Solomou 57, GR-10432 Athens, Greece. In case you use the post or courier, please have your abstract as a Microsoft Word file, on a diskette (please avoid sending a hard copy). In case of no submission of an extended abstract, the original abstract (if accepted by the Program Committee) will be published in the Proceedings.

Cancellations: If you have a reason to cancel your oral or poster presentation, please inform both the Program Chair Dr. Brendan Godley and the Program Coordinator Dr. Kartik Shanker

Post-Symposium Trips: We have arranged with a local travel agency some guided trips on Crete, all after the end of the Symposium. These trips, combining nature walks and archaeological/cultural visits, will be held between 8 and 10 April 2006. You may find detailed information at: Please, contact the agency directly for any arrangements you might wish. In case you encounter any difficulty or problem, please contact the Symposium Coordinator Thanos Belalidis

Vendor & Display Tables: At the time I am writing this (end of November 2005) we have rented 15 tables. I thank all those who have already done so. The Vendor Table area is limited. If you are thinking of renting a table, please do so as soon as possible. You can do this through the symposium website. For further information, please, contact Aliki Panagopoulou

Visas: You can find which nationalities need a visa to enter Greece at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: policy/eu/visa_inf.html. Please, apply for a visa well in advance to the Consulates of Greece in your country (contact details can be found at: ministry/missions/). If you encounter difficulties in obtaining a visa, please contact the Symposium Coordinator Thanos Belalidis explaining the problem and providing your full personal details; we will try to help you but shall need plenty of time for that.

Communications: Please do not neglect to visit regularly the Symposium website for updating information. If you have any questions, please contact the Symposium Coordinator Thanos Belalidis



1 – Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Conservation International, Center for Applied
Biodiversity Science, 1919 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 USA

2- Program Officer, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Address as above

3 – Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Marine Research Foundation, 136 Lorong Pokok  
Seraya 2, Taman Khidmat, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia


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The World Conservation Union (IUCN), through its Red List of Threatened Species, provides a global overview of the degree to which species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction. All seven species of sea turtles are listed on the Red List as either Endangered or Critically Endangered, with the exception of the flatback turtle (listed as Data Deficient). The Burning Issues described herein endeavor to go a step further than the global-scale Red List, with the intent to encourage on-the-ground conservation action in the places where experts agree they are most urgent and can have the largest impact in preventing extinctions. This document was prepared by members of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG). These experts, hailing from several countries and representing knowledge of all the world’s major sea turtle stocks, gathered in Washington, DC in August 2005. The MTSG is a group of over 300 experts from 70+ countries that work to assure a vision of “marine turtles fulfilling their ecological roles on a healthy planet where all peoples value and celebrate their continued survival.”

The Top Ten List draws attention to some of the sea turtle populations that are most in need of urgent conservation attention, considering one or more of the following criteria: recent precipitous declines, small population size, high degree of threat, or irreplaceability. It is a dynamic assessment that attempts to include all the major regions where sea turtles live, and it is based on best-available data and expert opinion as its principle resources. The list is reviewed annually to assure its accuracy and timeliness. It is part of a larger priority-setting process for sea turtle research and conservation that also includes a list of Critical Research Needs in recognition that for many areas of the world and populations of sea turtles, we simply do not have enough data to accurately assess urgency and degree of threat. Moreover, the Burning Issues Assessment identifies herein the five primary hazards to sea turtles worldwide.

The Top Ten List

  • Leatherbacks in the Pacific
  • Olive Ridleys in Orissa, India
  • Kemp’s Ridleys throughout their range (Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic)
  • Loggerheads in the Pacific
  • Green turtles in the Mediterranean
  • All sea turtles throughout Southeast Asia
  • Loggerheads in the Atlantic
  • Hawksbill and green turtles in the Caribbean
  • Green and leatherback turtles in the Eastern Atlantic (and their SW Atlantic foraging grounds)
  • Hawksbills in the Indian Ocean

Background Information on The Top Ten List

Leatherbacks in the Pacific:  
Current Status – Major populations in Mexico, Costa Rica and Malaysia have declined more than 90% in less than 20 years.
Causes – Fisheries bycatch (gillnets, driftnets, longline fishing), long-term egg collection

Olive Ridleys in Orissa, India:
Current Status – A minimum of 10,000 adults have been killed each year for the past 10 years.
Causes Trawl fisheries bycatch and coastal development

Kemp’s Ridleys throughout their range (Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic):
Current Status – Kemp’s Ridleys have declined more than 95% in less than 50 years. They live within a limited geographic range and have a small population size, making them especially vulnerable.
Causes – Egg take, bycatch in trawl fisheries

Loggerheads in the Pacific:
Current Status – Nesting in the Pacific (principally Japan and Australia) has declined by more than 90% over the last 25 years.
Causes – Fisheries bycatch (gillnets, longlines, trawls and pound nets), take of eggs and turtles

Green turtles in the Mediterranean:
Current Status – In the major rookeries, located in Turkey, populations have declined by 60-90% in 17 years.
Causes – Coastal development, fisheries bycatch, historical take of meat for export

All sea turtles in Southeast Asia:
Current Status – Hawksbills, green turtles, and olive ridleys have all suffered substantial declines in nesting in this region.
Causes – Direct take of adults and eggs for food and shell trade, fisheries bycatch (trawls, gillnets, pound nets, longlines)

Loggerheads in the Atlantic:
Current Status – At the major rookery at Archie Carr Refuge in Florida, USA, nesting has declined by more than 50% in the last five years.
Causes – Fisheries bycatch (trawls, gillnets and longlines), coastal development

Hawksbill and green turtles in the Caribbean:
Current Status – Greens have declined by more than 95% in the last 400 years. The loss of a number of rookeries has significantly reduced genetic diversity of greens, and current take of adult green turtles is greater than 11,000 per year in Nicaragua. Hawksbill nesting has declined by more than 60% at the largest rookery, located in Mexico, in the last five years.
Causes – Directed take for meat and eggs

Greens and leatherbacks in the Eastern Atlantic (and their SW Atlantic foraging grounds):  
Current Status – Globally significant nesting and foraging populations are virtually unstudied and threatened by substantial take due to extreme local poverty. Leatherbacks from Atlantic African nesting beaches also face great pressure from fisheries off the coast of south America.
Causes – Direct take for meat, eggs and products, and fisheries bycatch

Hawksbills in the Indian Ocean:
Current Status – Trade statistics going back more than 100 years indicate massive declines of up to 95% in hawksbill populations, specifically in Madagascar, Seychelles, & Sri Lanka.
Causes – Historic international trade in hawksbill shell, especially between the mid-1960s and early 1990s greatly reduced the sizes of hawksbill populations. Directed take of meat, eggs, and/or shell continues throughout the region. More recently, coastal development of nesting beaches poses an increasing threat to nesting populations.

Critical Research Needs

Recognizing that the aforementioned “Top Ten” is based on best-available information and drawn from expert opinion, it must be noted that there are many areas of the world for which very little data exist. As such, it is critical that greater attention also be paid to research on little known sea turtle populations and regions, including (but not limited to): African loggerheads, hawksbills, olive ridleys; Kemp’s ridleys in the Atlantic; leatherbacks and hawksbills in the southeast Pacific; loggerheads and green turtles in Oman; hawksbills in Iran; loggerheads in Libya; hawksbills in the eastern Pacific; leatherbacks in the southern Indian Ocean; olive ridleys in the western Atlantic; flatbacks, throughout their range; green turtles in the eastern Pacific; hawksbills in the eastern Pacific.

Hazards to Sea Turtles

The following are the broad hazards that are presently resulting in declines and local extinctions of sea turtles, or are in one way or another slowing or preventing sea turtle recovery.

Fisheries Impacts: Sea turtles virtually everywhere are impacted by fisheries – especially by longlines, gill nets, and trawls. The most severe of these impacts are bycatch mortality, habitat destruction and food web changes.

Coastal Development: Sea turtle habitats are degraded and destroyed by coastal development. This includes shoreline and seafloor alterations, such as nesting beach degradation, dredging, vessel traffic, construction, and alteration of vegetation.

Directed Take: Sea turtles and their eggs are killed by people throughout the world for food, and for products including oil, leather and shell.

Pollution and Pathogens: Marine pollution, including plastics, discarded fishing gear, petroleum by-products, and other debris directly impact sea turtles through ingestion and entanglement. Light pollution disrupts nesting behavior and hatchling orientation, leading to hatchling mortality. Chemical pollutants can weaken sea turtles’ immune systems, making them susceptible to pathogens.

Global Warming: Global warming may impact natural sex ratios of hatchlings, increase the frequency of extreme weather events, and raise the likelihood of disease outbreaks among sea turtles. It will result in loss of nesting beaches and cause other alterations to critical sea turtle habitats and basic oceanographic processes.



1 – Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Marine Research Foundation, 136 Lorong Pokok  
Seraya2, Taman Khidmat, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

2 – Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Conservation International, Center for Applied
Biodiversity Science, 1919 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 USA


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During the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2004, we identified the need for a forum where bycatch issues could be considered at an ecological, multi-species level rather than on a case-by-case basis. We recognised that several bycatch reduction measures are already in place, but noted that there was insufficient communication and collaboration among the various species groups impacted by longline fisheries, and that opportunities might exist for cross-group information sharing and collaboration. The workshop was intended as a forum to:

  • Exchange knowledge on bycatch problems and mitigation techniques among four key species groups (sea turtles, seabirds, cetaceans, sharks);
  • Identify conflicts/mutual benefits of mitigation gears and fishing strategies;
  • Share knowledge on the spatial-temporal overlap of distributions of these species;
  • Identify needs, priorities and opportunities for collaborative mitigation research; and,
  • Define a priority global agenda to create a significant and measurable reduction in longline bycatch.

The workshop held at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia from 26 to 30 September 2005 brought together marine resource specialists composed of managers, policy makers, scientists, NGOs, IGOs, industry representatives and fishers, from 14 countries and sharing a wealth of global experience, who worked to identify, develop, and recommend applicable and integrated solutions to reduce interactions of birds, mammals, turtles and sharks with pelagic longline fisheries.

The technical report includes commonalities, synergies and conflicts between species groups and mitigation measures for target (and non-target) species, through the use of a comparative matrix, and identifies criteria for evaluating trade-offs in the application of bycatch mitigation methods. It highlights the potential for the use of risk-based methods for assessing i) bycatch reduction priorities and ii) the multi-species effects of bycatch reduction methods and strategies, and suggests means of monitoring and evaluating mitigation efforts with respect to performance indicators and adaptive management approaches, including timing considerations. The outcomes highlight research priorities including filling data gaps, and promising new mitigation methods and strategies aimed at raising awareness of multi-species data needs, to encourage governments and industry to collect standardised multi-species data in all observer programs. The Technical Report is envisioned to form the basis of a ‘roadmap’ or plan of action with regard to multi-species bycatch mitigation.

A second key outcome was a preliminary mathematical model based on existing mitigation measures and intended to assist fisheries managers in decision making. The model is a process through which decision-makers can determine the top priorities for mitigation, both in terms of the bycatch species and the mitigation options, and combinations thereof at a multi-species level. The model requires an up front determination of the species being impacted by a given fishery, which are then assigned ‘conservation values’ or some form of risk assessment weighting based on existing criteria. A list of all potential bycatch mitigation measures is then assembled, and a matrix drawn up of the potential positive or negative impact of any given measure on each species or species group. The model then assigns weights to species value, factors these against mitigation measures, and prioritises the top mitigation measures.