Costa Rica Hosts World's Largest Gathering of Marine Turtle Researchers

2/22/2004

The 24th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation is Expected to 1,000 Researchers from 70 nations

San Jose, Costa Rica � More than 1,000 researchers from 70 nations will gather in San Jose, Costa Rica this week to analyze the state of the world's sea turtles and explore strategies to prevent their extinction.

Organized by Costa Rica's Ministry of Environment, the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS) and Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS), The XXIV Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation is expected to be the largest gathering of its kind.

"This symposium represents a unique opportunity to create regional and global alliances that will help us face the forces that are threatening these species," said Costa Rica's Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. "One of the issues we will be focusing on is the plight of the leatherback turtle, which is considered Critically Endangered and is one of the national symbols of Costa Rica."

Threatened in the sea by commercial fishing and on their nesting beaches by development, leatherback populations in the Eastern Pacific are thought to have decreased as much as 97 percent in the last two decades.

"We have a small window of opportunity to save the leatherback and other marine turtles but we have to combine our knowledge at every level in order to achieve this," said ISTS President and CI Vice President Roderic Mast. "These species are still largely a mystery to us - they haven't been fully studied - but we do know they are excellent indicators of the overall health of the ocean. We also know we're going to lose them if we don't act immediately."

The event comes amid growing indications that marine life is in trouble. According to a recent study in the journal Nature, 90 percent of the world's large predatory fish populations - including tuna and marlin - have been eliminated due in large part to destructive fishing practices. Moreover, 75 percent of commercial fisheries have either collapsed or are on the verge of collapse.

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For more information about the Symposium and the ISTS please visit: www.seaturtle.org.

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