President’s report for 38th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Kobe, Japan, 18-23 February 2018


President, International Sea Turtle Society

Sea Turtle Association of Japan, Hirakata, JAPAN

The 38th International Sea Turtle Symposium was held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan from 18th to 23rd of February 2018. The theme of the Symposium was “Beyond Protection of Sea Turtles”. As a result of decades of hard work, we have witnessed the protection and recovery of some sea turtle populations while at the same time facing a myriad of threats and issues to others. As researchers and conservationists, it is easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day activities of our work, and we lose sight of our mission and goals. It is important to step back, envision our goals and discuss them with colleagues, and take our efforts “beyond protection”.

The Kobe Municipal Suma Aqualife Park and the Sea Turtle Association of Japan (STJ) were key partners in hosting the Symposium, providing personnel and access to their facilities. A total of 632 people registered for the Symposium, all of who came together to learn about sea turtles and conservation of ocean resources. The main venue for the symposium was the Kobe Convention Center, Kobe, Japan. In addition to oral and poster presentations, the symposium program included 10 workshops, seven regional meetings, the annual Marine Turtle Specialist Group meeting, three special sessions, as well as several fun and productive social networking events, which were held at Ariston Hotel, Portopia Hotel, and Suma Aqualife Park. Overall the meeting was exciting and a success from every perspective; details are offered below.


Urashima Taro is the protagonist of this year’s Symposium and is featured on the meeting’s logo, representing both Japanese culture and demonstrating this nation’s appreciation of sea turtles. Urashima Taro is a Japanese fairy tale where a fisherman rescues a turtle and is rewarded with a visit to a palace under the sea. Everyone has a version of Urashima Taro inside of them, urging them to protect, understand and discover the mysteries of the sea turtles, with no personal expectations other than the intrinsic joy of knowing that sea turtles and their habitats are protected. The logo was created by Moe Wajiki.

Workshops and Regional Meetings

The structure of the symposium in Kobe was similar to that of year’s past: 10 workshops and seven regional meetings were scheduled during the two days prior to the symposium’s main four days of presentations, providing the opportunity to exchange and share ideas and information regarding environmental and sea turtle conservation issues, as well as cutting-edge research techniques. These meetings were successful and also helped bring attendees early to the symposium. The theme of the workshops were: Captive Rearing for Research and Conservation; Geographic Information System; Introductory R and Statistics; Temperature-dependent Sex Determination: Beyond Protection of Sea Turtles; Marine Debris and Sea Turtles; Western Pacific Leatherback Turtle Working Group; Sea Turtle Medicine and Rehabilitation; Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Drones in Sea Turtle Conservation and Research; Building Income Generating Activities Adapted to the Local Context to Ensure the Long-term Success of Sea Turtle Conservation Projects; and The Art of Writing Science lead by the Student Committee. Seven regional meetings were held allowing participants from over 54 countries around the world to discuss specific problems that impact their regions. These were: Africa, East Asia, Indian Ocean and South-east Asia, Mediterranean, Pacific Islands/Oceania; Latin America (RETOMALA), and the 28th Annual Japanese Sea Turtle Symposium. Besides these workshops and regional meetings, the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) was also held as a side meeting in the Tuesday evening.

Main Symposium Program

Opening Remarks from the ISTS President Yoshimasa Matsuzawa inaugurated the main symposium program. A Japanese traditional Shinto ritual to pray for safety and success of the symposium followed his words. This special ceremony was conducted by Mr. Miyajima, who is a chief priest of “Urashima shrine”, the enshrined deity of which is Urashimako – a model of Urashima Taro who is drawn in the logo of the symposium. During the Shinto ritual, he invited the deity and recited a Shinto prayer called Norito that praises virtues of the deity and prays for benefits and protection. While enjoying the beauty of traditional prayer, participants spent a bit of time thinking of the relationship between sea turtles and ancient people and prayed for the success of the symposium. Just after the ceremony, Dr. Naoki Kamezaki, from Okayama University of Science, addressed attendees with the presentation “Historical review of relationship between sea turtle and humans in Japan: Recognition of the importance of local research and management coordination”.

The Symposium program of oral and posters presentations ran from Tuesday, February 20th through Friday, February 23rd. The Oral and Poster presentations consisted of traditional session categories, including Anatomy, Physiology and Health; In-Water Biology; Nesting Biology; Population Biology and Monitoring; Fisheries and Threats; Conservation, Management and Policy; Education, Outreach and Advocacy; and Social, Economic and Cultural Studies. Program Chairs Takahashi Ishihara, Tomomi Saito, Isao Kawazu and Kei Okamoto, along with 36 Session Chairs developed an amazing symposium program consisting of 139 oral papers and 199 posters presented within the sessions mentioned above. Poster presenters had also the opportunity to give more details on their presentations as well as answering some questions during “Meet the Authors” scheduled after the last session of every day.

In addition to these regular sessions, three special sessions were held. “Beyond Protection of Sea Turtle” was aimed to broaden the discussion on the main theme of this symposium. This session consisted of short panelist presentations and discussion facilitated by Kartik Shanker. Panelists were: Yoshimasa Matsuzawa, Jack Frazier, Paolo Casale, Matthew Godfrey, Colin Limpus, Neca Marcovaldi and Hiroyuki Suganuma. Special Session “North Pacific Loggerhead Turtle” focused on this dynamic migratory population, with experts providing an overview of each life history stage and highlighting the need and ongoing efforts for international cooperation. Line up of the experts was Jeff Seminoff, Cali Tuner Tomaszewicz, Takashi Ishihara, Hideo Hatase, and Alexis Gutierrez. The third Special Session was “Linking Space Exploration and Sea Turtle” where it reviewed the current conservation activities at nesting beaches adjacent to satellite launch stations and discussed the prospects of the space exploration and nature conservation with a focus on how the space industry benefits sea turtles and sea turtle people. Jane Provancha, Mark Hamann, Sophi Baudel and George Balazs gave presentations. During the main oral presentation sessions, simultaneous English-Japanese translation was available.

Kobe Declaration

On the basis of a meaningful discussion at the special session, ISTS President Yoshimasa Matsuzawa read through the following personal statement at the business meeting:

The Kobe Declaration: Beyond Protection of Sea Turtles*

“At the 38th International Sea Turtle Symposium in Kobe, Japan, on 20 February 2018, a panel of international sea turtle experts have taken an important step forward in discussing issues surrounding the idea of moving beyond protection. The panel members encouraged further dialogue on the need for flexible and diverse conservation and management strategies in accordance with sea turtle population status, management context, scientific knowledge, local and traditional knowledge, socioeconomic needs, and cultural considerations. In doing so, we commit to respecting the diversity in conservation and management strategies and recognize that the path to thriving sea turtle populations may differ with each community, culture, country, and region that have shared populations of sea turtles. As the President of the 38th International Sea Turtle Symposium, I declare this moment as the start of a new conversation to take us beyond protection of sea turtles.”

*Personal statement by 2018 ISTS President, not intended as a resolution.

Student Committee

The Student Committee chaired by Itzel Sifuentes and Catalina Uruena conducted its 8th year of activities dedicated to welcome and encourage student attendees. This year there was three core activities: Student Presentation Feedback during which 70 evaluators volunteered to give feedback to 124 student presentations. The second activity was a half-day workshop “The Art of Writing Science”, which aimed to help students develop skills needed to write, submit, and publish scientific manuscript. Four speakers –Richard Reina, Jeff Seminoff, Kate Mansfield, and Sean Williamson– kindly shared their experiences with 24 attendees. Lastly, with the aim to promote networking and communication among students and other symposium participants, and also enhance their participation in the Society, a Student Social Mixer was held in the Tuesday evening. The mixer included the “Speed Chatting with the Experts”. The lineup was: Tomo Eguchi, Irene Kelly, Nicolas Pilcher, Nancy FitzSimmons, Takahiro Shimada, Kei Okamoto, David Booth, Michael Salmon, Simona Ceriani, Brian Shamblin, and Katherine Comer Santos.

Social Events

The social component of the symposium was highlighted by the Welcome Social, Student Committee activities, Japan Night, Silent and Live Auctions, as well as the Award Ceremony and Banquet, and Field Trip. The Welcome Social was held Monday evening at Suma Aqualife Park, during which attendees were able to enjoy watching a variety of marine animals as well as the demonstration of a Turtle Releasing Device from a model underwater pound net set up in the main tank. As participating co-hosts, the aquarium staff was on hand to answer questions and assist meeting attendees throughout the week. Another highlight of social events in Kobe was “Japan night”, which was held Wednesday evening. This activity aimed to introduce a part of Japanese culture to attendees. People enjoyed watching performance of Japanese drum and art of calligraphy, trying Kimono, origami, Japanese wrapping cloth, and rice-cake making, as well as tasting rice-cake and Kobe beef. As it is typical, the Silent (from the beginning of the symposium until February 22nd) and Live Auctions (on the 22nd from 7:00pm to 11:00pm) were among the most popular events. The auction teams successfully maximized fun and funding under new auction guidelines. The events jointly raised approximately US$17,000 to help students to attend future symposia via travel grants.

On the final day of the Symposium, February 23rd, the Banquet was held in the Portopia Hotel’s Ballroom. A welcome speech by Kizou Hisamoto, Kobe Mayor, was followed by a sake barrel opening and cheers with wooden square cups of sake. The evening proceeded with the Award Ceremony presenting the Archie Carr Student Awards, the ISTS Career Awards, and the Grassroots Conservation Award. The formal portion of the evening closed with words of appreciation from the President and the ceremonial passing of the ISTS Presidential Trowel to incoming 2019 President Ken Lohmann. A spirited two hours of dancing with live band brought an end to an intense yet relaxed week of activities.

ISTS Career Awards

Thushan Kapurusinghe, ISTS Career Awards Committee chair, and team members: Andres Estrades, Shaya Honarvar, Michael Jensen and Erin Seney did an excellent job and presented this year’s meeting with an incredible group of awardees. ISTS Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to Maria Ângela (Neca) Marcovaldi from TAMAR in Brazil, Donna Shaver of Padre Island National Seashore, Naoki Kamezaki of Okayama University of Science, and to Hiroyuki Suganuma of Everlasting Nature of Asia. “Colola: Capital Mundial de la Tortuga Negra” in Mexico received the ISTS Champions Award. Kazuyoshi Omuta of Yakushima Umigame-Kan was awarded the Ed Drane Award for Volunteerism. President’s Awards were given to Yasuo Kondo for his pioneer work started at Hiwasa in 1950, and to Team Minabe for its contribution to conservation and research of sea turtles.

Archie Carr Student Awards

There were 39 student oral presentations and 78 student poster presentations nominated for the Archie Carr Student Awards. Judges of the student presentations in Kobe were: Agnese Mancini, ALan Rees, Aliki Panagopoulou, Carlos Carreras, Hideaki Nishizawa, Jillian Hudgins, Joe Pfaller, Kate Mansfield, Katsufumi Sato, Kelly Stewart, Mark Hamann, Michael Jensen, Mick Guinea, Rupika Rajakaruna, Scott Whiting, and Simona Ceriani. Coordinators Matthew Godfrey and Andrea Phillott presented eight students with Archie Carr awards for outstanding presentations: Kennta Fujita (Biology winner), Sara Abalo Moral (Biology runner-up), Helen Pheasey (Conservation winner) and MacKenzie Tackett (Conservation runner-up) won in the Poster Category. Shohei Kobayashi (Biology winner), J. Roger Brothers (Biology runner-up), Ryan Pearson (Conservation winner) and Seh Ling Long (Conservation runner-up) won in the Oral Category.

Grassroots Conservation Award

Now in its 8th year, the Grassroots Conservation Award given to a poster or oral presentation that best demonstrates a positive contribution towards the conservation of marine turtles and/or their habitats went to Ning Yen from Hiin Studio for their presentation “From Trash to Money: A Successful Case Combining Green Turtles Protection and Beach Clean-up in Taiwan”. The judges were Ingrid Yanez, Jack Frazier, Angela Formia, Zahirul Islam, Manjula Tiwari and Muralidharan Manoharakrishnan.

Travel Grants

Making the symposium accessible to students and international participants is a major priority of the Society, and to this end travel grants are provided to offset the cost of attending. Alexander Gaos chaired the Travel Grant Committee, along with the Regional travel chairs Angela Formia, Kelly Stewart, Karen Eckert, Andrea Phillott, ALan Rees, Alejandro Fallabrino, Aliki Panagopoulou, and Emma Harrison. Through their coordinated efforts the ISTS was able to support a total of 127 overseas travel grant applicants with full lodging during the symposium and 50 Japanese students partially. The distribution of bed grants per region was as follows: 9 to Africa representatives, 25 to Asia Pacific, 3 to Caribbean, 21 to Europe, 17 to Mexico & Central America, 12 to South America, 9 to South Asia, 4 to Middle East & North Africa, and 27 to US & Canada. In accordance with some Japanese sponsor wishes, the symposium allocated US$7,800 in cash awards to applicants from Asia and the Pacific.

Board of Directors Meeting

The Board of Directors meeting was held on Tuesday, February 20th. The meeting was fruitful and lasted until midnight. The Board received and discussed reports from the Nominations Committee, ISTS Career Awards Committee, Students Awards Committee, Student Committee, Travel Grant Committee, as well as reports from the Treasurer.

ISTS Business Meeting

The 2018 ISTS Business Meeting was held on Friday, February 23rd. ISTS President Yoshimasa Matsuzawa called the meeting to order, and reports were provided by Treasurer (George Balazs), Travel Grant Committee (Alexander Gaos), Nominations Committee (Kate Mansfield) and Students Committee (Itzel Sifuentes). Other issues related to our Society also were discussed. No Resolutions were submitted for consideration at this Symposium. Ken Lohmann, 2019 ISTS President, provided details regarding the next year’s symposium to be held in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. The theme of next year’s meeting is “Navigating the Future”. Dates have been set as 2-8 February 2019, during which time Society members will once again get together to celebrate sea turtles.

ISTS Elections

As a result of the 2018 Society’s annual election, Diego Amorocho from Colombia was elected President for the ISTS symposium in 2020. Also, the elections added two new members to the Board of Directors (year indicates board member’s end of term): Andres Estrades (2023) and Richard Reina (2023). Sheryan Epperly and Irene Kelly were elected to join the Awards Committee.


Generous funding by many entities made the success of the 38th symposium possible. The organizing committee deeply thanks the following donors for their generosity. At the Platinum level (US$25,000 and above): Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Suma Aqualife Park. At the Gold level (US$10,000-US$24,999): Osaka College of ECO & Animals, Lion Corporation, and Sea Turtle Association of Japan. At the Silver level (US$1,000-US$9,999): Kanetetsu Delica Foods, Stella Chemifa, Orgabits, Okinawa Churaumi Foundation & Aquarium, NYK Group, Nestle Japan, Sysmex, Kamihata Fish Industry Group, Chubu Doboku, George Balazs & Golden Honu Services of Oceania, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Computers, and Lotek. At the Bronze level (US$500-US$999): Native Vision, and Teikyo University of Science. At the Inconel level (US$100-US$499): Janet Hochella, パシコ貿易株式会社, 株式会社オキナワマリンリサーチセンター, 株式会社日本ドルフィンセンター, 紀宝町役場, 株式会社日本海洋生物研究所, 国民宿舎 紀州路みなべ, 堺市漁業協同組合, 洲崎神社, カロラータ株式会社, アースウォッチ・ジャパン, マイスター大学堂, 横浜商科大学, 椎名大敷組合, 三津大敷組合, 高岡大敷株式会社, 漁師のNPO, 名古屋港水族館, 浦嶋神社, 日映エンタープライズ株式会社, 南知多ビーチランド, うみまーる企画, いであ株式会社, 日和佐うみがめ博物館カレッタ, hau’oli, キュービックアイ, 有限会社松仙ベッ甲製作所, 株式会社モンベル, ITストアーMANATO, 特定非営利活動法人宮崎野生生物研究会, 西大和学園中学校・高等学校, 大本山 須磨寺, 株式会社串本海中公園センター, ホクト環境システム株式会社, 日本ミクニヤ株式会社, and 恋の浦ウミガメの会. At the Monel level (up to US$99): 株式会社神戸ゴマルゴ, 門井社会保険労務士事務所, コマタニ商会, ペンションむぎわらぼうし, 株式会社西尾製作所, 株式会社吉高屋, 谷内FP保険事務所有限会社, させぼパールシー株式会社, 神戸動植物環境専門学校, 小学館, 紀伊半島ウミガメ情報交換会, 国立公園成ヶ島を美しくする会, 料亭花月, 須磨ふるさと生きものサポータ, 水中カメラ専門店 海の写真屋さん, アクアワールド茨城県大洗水族館, 株式会社アドバンス, 志摩半島野生動物研究会, 江崎グリコ株式会社, すさみ海立エビとカニの水族館, 株式会社ビデオエイペックス, 特定非営利活動法人Turtle Crew, 琴引浜鳴き砂文化館, 有限会社浦田帆屋, 有限会社月灘屋, 南浦はくせい店, 有限会社ウミガメフーズ, 図書出版 南方新社, and 株式会社 海の中道海洋生態科学館

Exhibitors and Vendors

The exhibitors and vendors that participated in the Kobe symposium were: CLS America, Inc.; 4K-UHD Deep Sea Camera System (Kanso Co., Ltd.); Lotek Wireless Inc.; Telonics, Inc.; Wildlife Computers; Bioko Marine Turtle Program; Everlasting Nature of Asia (ELNA); Hiin Studio; MarineLife Alliance (MLA); Pro Delphinus; Taiwan Sea Turtle Conservation Society; Turtle Crew; TurtleSpot in Taiwan; The State of the World’s Sea Turtles (SWOT); and Japan Bekko Association.

Going Green

The ISTS made efforts to minimise waste, including use of the mailing list, ISTS website and various social network service. Participants were strongly encouraged to bring their own mug for coffee break. Paper cups prepared for those who did not bring their own mug were made from forest thinning products. Instead of paper or plastic bags, a Japanese traditional wrapping cloth was used for a participant package. During Japan Night, symposium participants had the opportunity to train how to fold and use the wrapping cloth. Aquarium staff sorted waste one by one after any social events.


Organising the Kobe symposium took a large number of volunteers allocated to various committees: registrars, fundraising, program, sessions, poster, workshop, student, travel grants, awards, exhibitor, volunteer, auction, visitor visa application support, communications, and proceedings. All of these individuals gave a significant number of hours, effort and dedication towards their entrusted tasks. By alphabetical order of their first name, the Society thanks: Agnese Mancini, Akira Oda, ALan Rees, Alejandro Fallabrino, Alexander Gaos, Alexandre Girard, Alexis Guilleux, Alexis Gutierrez, Aliki Panagopoulou, Andrea Phillott, Andrew DiMatteo, Andrews Agyekumhene, Andy Estrades, Angela Formia, Antonio Di Bello, Ayaka Asada, Asuka Ishizaki, Brendan Godley, Brian Shamblin, Cali Turner Tomaszewicz, Camryn Allen, Carlos Carreras, Catalina Uruena, Chiho Kezuka, Colin Limpus, Connie Ka-Yan Ng, Daisuke Shiode, Daniel Gonzalez-Paredes, Daniela Freggi, Dave Owens, David Booth, Emma Harrison, Erin Seney, George Balazs, George Shillinger, Hector Barrios-Garrido, Heather Harris, Hideaki Nishizawa, Hideo Hatase, Hiroyuki Suganuma, Hiroyuki Yoshida, Ingrid Yañez, Irene Kelly, Isao Kawazu, Itzel Sifuentes, Jack Frazier, Jacques Fretey, Jane Provancha, Jean-Michel Guillon, Jeanette Wyneken, Jeff Seminoff, Jesus Tomas, Jillian Hudgins, Joanna Alfaro, Joe Pfaller, John Wang, Junichi Okuyama, Karen Eckert, Kartik Shanker, Kate Mansfield, Katherine Comer Santos, Katsufumi Sato, Kazunari Kameda, Kei Okamoto, Kelly Stewart, Kensuke Matsumiya, Kiyomi Nakamura, Koji Baba, Kojiro Mizuno, Lalith Ekanayake, Laura Gibbons, Mai Takase, Manjula Tiwari, Marc Girondot, Marina Zucchini, Mario Mota, Mark Hamann, Matthew Godfrey, Michael Jensen, Michael Salmon, Mick Guinea, Misako Munechika, Moe Wajiki, Momoyo Muramoto, Motoki Sugiura, Muralidharan Manoharakrishnan, Nancy FitzSimmons, Naoki Koga, Natalie Wilderman, Neca Marcovaldi, Nicolas Pilcher, Paolo Casale, Richard Reina, Rod Mast, Rupika Rajakaruna, Sandra Hochscheid, Satomi Kondo, Saya Hirai, Scott Whiting, Sean Williamson, Shaya Honarvar, Shigetomo Hirama, Simona Ceriani, Sophie Baudel, Takahide Sasai, Takahiko Ide, Takahiro Shimada, Takashi Ishihara, Takuya Fukuoka, Tatsuya Oshika, Thushan Kapurusinghe, Tomo Eguchi, Tomoka Eguchi, Tomoka Higuchi, Tomoko Hamabata, Tomoko Narazaki, Tomotomi Saito, Tsung-Hsien Li, T. Todd Jones, Vanessa Bezy, Yakup Kaska, Zahirul Islam, and the various volunteers that were assigned on-site. Also, the symposium would not have been possible without the support from the donors mentioned above.