28th President, International Sea Turtle Society
Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences
Post Office Box 324 Davenport, California 95017 USA
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The Symposium

We are at the Awana Kijal Golf, Beach & Spa Resort, a nine-story monster of a building, which conveniently has an ice cold conference room with no windows, just like all the others in thousands of hotels around the world. Kill the lights and fire up the PowerPoint. You could be in New Jersey. There has got to be another way . . .
(Mark Spalding of The Ocean Foundation)

Indeed there is. There was absolutely no mistaking the 2008 ISTS in Loreto, Mexico for New Jersey or Cabo San Lucas for that matter. From top to bottom, most everything about this year’s ISTS was rethought, reinvented or renewed in some way…except for the sea turtle biology and conservation theme itself and the special camaraderie of our members.

There’s no way to take on such a task without a committed, clever and hard working team, and we had just that in Journey Mexico, our program committee and our tireless corps of local and international volunteers.

The community of Loreto in its entirety rolled up its sleeves, opened their homes, painted the town for us (literally) and demonstrated the best of the combination of hospitality and charm Loreto is known for. Add to that strong support from our sponsors-some familiar and some brand new. Plus the spirit of adventure of our members: you who attended, walked in the rain, tested the organic tequila and helped turn Loreto into Turtle Town for a week. We thank each of you for helping to make this meeting-more than a meeting, a gathering, really-the great success that it was. The organizing team has jokingly discussed writing a book called Extreme Adventure Conferencing. I think we are on to something.

Elena Finkbeiner merits her own section in the President’s Report for her tireless work on every aspect of the 28th ISTS in the years preceding it, on site and afterwards. Looking back on past ISTS reports it’s clear that this unofficial “vice president” role is nothing new and always critical to the meeting’s success.

General Program: Well over 400 abstracts were submitted, which provided the Program Chairs (Jeffrey Seminoff and Raquel Briseno Duenas), the Program Coordinator (DuBose Griffin) and their 20-member Program Committee with a tremendous amount of work. Over 390 abstracts were accepted for presentation. Symposium proceedings will be forthcoming in the very near future, printed and distributed thanks to Sheryan Epperly and the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center. For the first time a presentation archive is accessible online at:

On the 19th – 22nd January, several regional meetings took place including: the 10th Annual Grupo Tortuguero Meeting, the 15th Latin American (RETOMALA) meeting, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST) meeting, the Indian Ocean South East Asia (IOSEA) meeting, and the Africa meeting. Many thanks to Egle Flores for coordinating the university location and all of the regional meetings and workshops.

The Symposium kicked off on 22nd January with a special Sea Turtles of the Californias Mini-symposium. The California session was co-hosted by Hoyt Peckham and Jeffrey Seminoff and included talks by Scott Benson, Peter Dutton, Antonio Loza, Teresa Ruiz-Vallejo, Elizabeth Gonzalez Payan, Dana Wingfield, Alexander Gaos, Jonathan Mabry, Volker Koch, Agnese Mancini, Julio Solis Hernandez, David Maldonaldo Diaz, Hoyt Peckham and Georgita Ruiz.

The regular program followed until the morning of the 25th. Concurrent sessions were not implemented this year, and instead three minute “Speed Sessions” were added to the program. This addition proved successful and will be integrated into future symposia programs. In total there were 98 oral and 293 poster presentations, covering the following sessions: Anatomy, Physiology, and Health; Behavior and Movement; Conservation, Management and Policy; Public Education and Advocacy; Fisheries; Population Biology and Modeling; Genetics; Foraging and Developmental Areas; Nesting Status and Biology; and Social, Economic and Cultural Studies.

A series of Workshops were held concurrently with talks during the regular program. Workshops were held at the local university and were conducted in a variety of formats including open discussion, organised lecture and hands-on training. Workshops explored the following topics: Conservation Tourism, Epibionts, Hawksbill Genetics, Sea Turtles as Sentinels of Marine Ecological Health, Fisheries Bycatch, Bayesian Statistics and Fresh Water Turtles.

Posters this year were located outdoors in the Plaza abutting the first mission in the Californias. Posters were displayed all at once for the entirety of the symposium with two “Question & Answer” periods of 1.25 h each. The timely preparation and the smooth running of the program, as well as the efficient arrangement of the posters would not have been possible without the dedication of the Program Officers, the Program Committee, the Session Chairs and the Poster Session Chair, Ana Barragon.
On 26th January, the Annual Meeting of the SSC/IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group convened.

Native Oceans Council: “Native Oceans” was chosen as the theme of the 28th annual ISTS in recognition that sea turtle conservation is not only a modern effort, but a continuation of an ancient tradition that indigenous peoples the world over have practiced for centuries. Moreover, it is known that indigenous conservation is critical to international conservation efforts as indigenous peoples are most often living in the closest contact with the natural environment, have the strongest cultural ties to other species and have a direct need to coexist with other animals such as sea turtles. This theme was reflected not only through the participation of indigenous groups, but also through the scientific presentations as authors responded to the call to re-think conservation efforts, paying special attention to “shifting baseline” concepts, and placing the current findings and status of marine systems in a socio-historical context. Onsite at ISTS this year, we had the participation of over 50 indigenous people representing 15 indigenous nations from Australia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, and Venezuela. The Seri, as the official hosts of the ISTS, welcomed the community with four days of Leatherback Ceremony and at the Welcome Social.

During the ISTS meeting the Native Oceans Council met on several occasions, including in a public session in the Loreto town plaza, in which the Seri formally welcomed each indigenous nation and participants exchanged music, art, ritual, stories, questions and information about their respective communities and projects. Additionally, the Seri and the Australian Traditional Owners began a formal knowledge exchange which will continue throughout the year; they will have their second face-to-face meeting in Australia in the fall of 2008.

Through our work at the ISTS, the commitment of the Native Oceans participants was strengthened as new project ideas were born and solutions to pre-existing problems were discovered. Additionally, the exchange of age-old traditional knowledge and 21st century conservation strategies with the international sea turtle conservation community brought new inspiration and deepened the commitment to their work; it also raised new questions and concerns that warrant investigation. From all sides, the desire to grow the NativeOceans project has never been stronger. Native Oceans is an ongoing project of Ocean Revolution and will play a role at the ISTS 2009 in Brisbane.

LIVBLUE Challenge, Towards a more sustainable Sea Turtle Society: Solar energy, organic coffee, organic tequila, organic cotton t-shirts, waste reduction (use of personal mugs and bottles), recycling, compostable flatware and cutlery, LIVBLUE Challenge awards, local food, local revenue sharing, regranting of ISTS laptops and projectors, local university coffee services, Seri-made journey bags, bicycles, walking, Loretano volunteers, sustainable seafood and cold showers were among the elements of our efforts to make the ISTS more sustainable, both in terms of its physical footprint and its social benefit. The mere fact that we spread our many hundreds of thousands of dollars over dozens of hotels, restaurants and local merchants meant that the positive message of sea turtle conservation spread by the ISTS was both heard and felt by a new audience. Some of these changes are with us to stay.

The Archie Carr Best Student Paper Award: Eight awards were given to the best student oral and poster presentations and runners-up, in the categories of Biology and Conservation. In total, the Judging Committee examined 130 contributions. The award certificates were accompanied by an honorarium, including a subscription to Chelonian Conservation and Biology. Anders Rhodin, through the Chelonian Research Foundation, co-sponsors students’ awards along with the ISTS. In total, $3000 was distributed to the winners. I would like to extend an extra-special thank-you to the co-chairs of the Judges, Lisa Campbell, Matthew Godfrey, and Jeanette Wyneken, as well as the 20-member Judging Committee for their important work. A formal reporting of the best authors and their presentation titles will appear in the Symposium Proceedings.

Travel Grants: A great number of conference participants were assisted by the Travel Grant program to attend the 28th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Conservation and Biology. A total of 196 grantees from fifty-seven countries benefited from ISTS travel assistance to this year’s symposium. In total, we allocated $50,500 in the form of checks and cash to recipients (See Table 1 for details). In addition to financial awards, we offered beds to 200 grantees, which cost another $16,000 for a total of $66,500 spent on travel grants. The organisations providing funding for this year’s symposium included the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, NMFS Office of Protected Species, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Walt Disney Animal Kingdom, Florida Power and Light, Sirtrack Ltd, Project Global, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Robert Allen Law, Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Norcross, Majorie Sale Arundel Fund for the Environment, Telonics and Wildlife Computers. There were also numerous smaller donors, too many to be mentioned here. Ed Drane, Barbara Schroeder, Sheryan Epperly, Earl Possardt, Sandy MacPherson, Irene Kinan, Wallace J. Nichols, Brad Nahill and Elena Finkbeiner provided invaluable assistance in securing funds and in fund-raising efforts. The delicate job of allocating travel grants was handled by the Travel Committee Chair, Hoyt Peckham, and the Regional Travel Chairs including Angela Formia and Manjula Tiwari (Africa), Nicolas Pilcher (Asia/Pacific), Karen Eckert (Caribbean), Aliki Panagopoulou (Europe), Alejandro Fallabrino (Latin America), Kartik Shanker (India/South Asia) and Bryan Wallace (USA/Canada).

Media: We had a strong showing in the press thanks primarily to the efforts of Splash Communication, The Santa Barbara Independent, and Tree Media Group. We had many press outputs this year, including stories in local media outlets, international media outlets and many on-site interviews. (See links at my blog in the Print-Web section).

Local Participation: Local participation was especially robust at the 28th symposium due to the concurrent meeting of the local grassroots organisation, Grupo Tortuguero. Several hundred Grupo Tortuguero participants stuck around to participate in the symposium. In addition, community members were encouraged to participate in several symposium activities free of charge, including the Seri Indian leatherback ceremony and the Native Oceans Council meeting.

Due to the setup of poster presentations in the mission plaza, community members were able to view research and meet the poster authors. Several computers and projectors were purchased for use at the symposium, and these were donated to local non-profit organisations at the conclusion of the symposium.

Vendors: Vendor chair Celene Nahill deserves special thanks for organizing a large number of vendors in a very successful effort. Vendor logistics were particularly difficult this year due to weather anomalies so a big thanks to Celene for her tireless effort and to all the vendors for being flexible and enthusiastic!

Entertainment: Loreto was never lacking in entertainment thanks to the wonderful coordination of the Live and Silent Auctions by Jen Homcy, Alec Hutchinson and Roderic Mast. The Opening Social held in the mission plaza offered an amazing array of local food, while the Farewell Banquet held at the Inn at Loreto Bay provided a delectable spread of regional specialties. Organic tequila provided by 4 Copas and long nights of dancing completed the quintessential Mexican experience.

ISTS Business

Nominations and Elections: The 2008 election marked the first time the International Sea Turtle Society completed elections online. In total, 298 votes were logged, which was approximately twice the number of people in attendance at the plenary session in Loreto. This was also approximately 100 votes more than we have logged during any previous election. Each of the nominees was evaluated for open seats: two on the Board of Directors (BoD) and two on the Nominating Committee (NC). The following candidates were elected: Didiher Chacon and Scott Eckert for the BoD positions, and Annette Broderick and Jeanette Wyneken for the NC.

In addition, the NC recommended that the BoD approve the following slate for the Executive Committee: President-Elect Kartik Shanker, Treasurer Edwin Drane, and Secretary Manjula Tiwari. The BoD accepted this slate and it was approved unanimously by the general membership during the Plenary. I would like to congratulate the new members and also thank the departing BoD members Hedelvy Guada and Donna Shaver, the past president Michael Coyne, and the NC members Scott Eckert and Alberto Abreu. For complete details visit the ISTS website (

Resolutions: There were no resolutions at the 2008 ISTS Business Meeting.

On behalf of the ISTS Board of Directors and Organizing Committee I would like to thank the entire Ocean Conservancy staff for their support of the ISTS. An extraordinary amount of time is required of the president to organise the Annual Sea Turtle Symposium and the support of his/her organisation is critical to the success of the meeting. I especially recognise the vision and leadership of Ocean Conservancy this year as the ISTS undertook an unusually complex event.

The publication of this article was delayed as IOTN 8 was a special issue dedicated to the Dhamra Port debate.

27th – 29th APRIL, 2010


President, International Sea Turtle Society
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India &
Dakshin Foundation, Bangalore, India
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The Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology & Conservation, conducted by the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS), will be coming to south Asia for the first time in 30 years. Different countries, cultures, landscapes and coasts comprise this region, but sea turtles respect few of these boundaries. Olive ridley turtles nesting in Orissa feed in the Gulf of Mannar shared by India and Sri Lanka. Green turtles share nesting beaches on the west coast in India and Pakistan. Turtles feed and nest together in the Sunderbans shared by India and Bangladesh. A female green turtle tagged in Karachi, Pakistan visits the Gulf of Kachchh on the west coast of India.

In keeping with their philosophy, the 30th symposium seeks to break down barriers and boundaries between people, their countries and cultures in order to achieve marine conservation through its most global flagship, the sea turtle. This event will strengthen collaboration, promote networking and conservation of marine ecosystems and sea turtles in South Asia. The symposium will bring together scientists, experts, practioners, researchers and students from around the world to promote the wider global movement under the umbrella of sea turtle conservation.


Theme: The world of turtles

Sea turtles inhabit the land and the sea. They connect the shallow nearshore waters to the open sea, cold temperate to warm tropical waters. They migrate across ocean basins. And through several thousands of years, they have connected us ecologically and culturally to the sea. The thirtieth annual symposium on sea turtle biology and conservation will seek to explore these connections and focus on the world they live in. The world of coral reefs, seagrass meadows, open seas and sandy beaches. The world of people, living and working on the coast or at sea; of fishing cultures and livelihoods. All connected by sea turtles and by us.

When and where?

Symposium dates: 27th – 29th April, 2010
Venue: The Kala Academy, Panaji, Goa, India

Goa, home to many cultures from around the world, is the ideal location to host the Sea Turtle Symposium, bringing together a diversity of people, cultures and ideas.

Symposium agenda

Pre-symposium events begin on the 24th of April, 2010. Regional meetings, workshops and the MTSG meeting will be held from 24th – 26th April, 2010.

The main days of the symposium (27th – 29th April) will comprise of oral, speed and poster presentations by participants. In addition, special sessions and events will be held, including a Fisheries Mela, an exhibition of fishing craft and gear used within the region.

Travel and accommodation

International flights ply to all major Indian cities on a regular basis. Mumbai, one of the primary gateways to India is situated north of Goa, and is the closest port of entry. Trains, buses and taxis frequently ply between Mumbai and Panaji, the capital of Goa and the location of the symposium. Goa also has an international airport located 30km from Panaji.

Traveling within India is easy on the pocket. Low budget airlines and an extensive road and rail network connect all corners of the country. We recommend applying for visas to India well in advance. A dedicated team will help with details of the procedure to apply for visas and documents needed. This information will be up on our website soon. You can also find useful visa and travel related information at and

Goa offers a wide range of accommodation options, from star-rated beach resorts to student dormitories and home stays.

Online symposium information

Information about the 2010 Sea Turtle Symposium will be available online at For more information about the South Asia symposium, log on to

By registering as a member of the International Sea Turtle Society (at, you will be sent regular updates of symposium related information including deadlines for submission of abstracts and applications for travel grants, symposium schedule and other related activities and announcements.


For queries and inputs, please contact:

ISTS President
Kartik Shanker (

Program Co-Chairs
B.C. Choudhury & Jack Frazier

Program Coordinators
Dubose Griffin and Naveen Namboothri

Regional Coordinators
Ahmed Khan (
Zahirul Islam (
Thushan Kapurusinghe & Lalith Ekanayake

Symposium Coordinator
Seema Shenoy (

Volunteer Coordinator
Supraja Dharini (