Sea turtles have been an integral part of ecosystems for more than 60 million years and, this week, National Aquarium will be co-hosting 33rd Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation to make sure they stay that way. More than 1,000 scientists and conservationists from 75 countries are expected to attend the symposium presented by the International Sea Turtle Society.
The theme for this year’s symposium is “Connections” and will include discussions around sea turtle biology, research and conservation, marine turtle ecological interactions, coastal communities, collaborative research, community-based conservation and more. Outreach and educational activities planned for the symposium will highlight the presence of sea turtles in the Chesapeake Bay and the myriad of environmental issues impacting the watershed.
“Being located on the Chesapeake Bay, the largest watershed on the east coast and an important foraging area for some sea turtle species, National Aquarium is deeply invested in the cause,” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “The need for sea turtle conservation action is urgent. It is going to take many people from many countries across the world to save these species.”
This year has been an extraordinarily busy sea turtle stranding season with a record of more than 200 reported strandings so far from along the east coast. As part of the Northeast Stranding Network, National Aquarium is responsible for responding to live sea turtle and marine mammal strandings along the nearly 4,300 miles of coastline in Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts. Although Maryland has not seen many local turtle strandings, National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program is working closely with other institutions like New England Aquarium to take on many of the turtle patients. With successful releases earlier this month, the animal rescue team continues to work with these other institutions to provide rehabilitation.
All sea turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are under the joint jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Major threats to sea turtles in the U.S. include, but are not limited to: cold-stunning; destruction and alteration of nesting and foraging habitats; incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries; entanglement in marine debris; and vessel strikes.
The Symposium will kick off with a Welcome Social on Monday, February 4 at National Aquarium and will run through Friday, February 8. In addition to on-site sessions and presentations, this year the event will also go off-site into the local Baltimore community, providing teacher and educator workshops, live streaming of special sessions to local schools and universities as well as a sea turtle art contest in Baltimore City schools. On Tuesday, students from four Baltimore City schools and one Baltimore County school will have the opportunity learn more about the importance of turtles at special Q&A sessions with sea turtle experts.
The 33rd Annual Sea Turtle Symposium will be held at the Marriott Waterfront through Friday, February 8. The exhibit/vendor area will be open to the public on specific days.
International Sea Turtle Society
The International Sea Turtle Society brings people together to promote the exchange of information that advances the global knowledge of sea turtle biology and conservation. They envision a global network of diverse peoples, professions and cultures sharing knowledge, ideas and inspiration to ensure healthy sea turtle populations worldwide. For more information, visit https://internationalseaturtlesociety.org.
National Aquarium Animal Rescue
Every year, thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, seals and manatees become sick or injured, often due to human-related reasons. As part of the Northeast Stranding Network, National Aquarium is responsible for responding to live sea turtle and marine mammal strandings along the nearly 4,300 miles of coastline in Maryland, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coasts. Since 1991, the National Aquarium has responded to more than 480 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released nearly 100 marine animals back to their natural environment. Many of these animals are endangered or threatened, so every individual introduced back into the natural environment has the opportunity to add to the genetic diversity of the species. Research, satellite tracking and outreach education are also significant components of the program. Every animal that is rehabilitated and released is an opportunity to raise awareness and get the public involved in helping to conserve and protect our marine resources. Click here to find out how you can help.