Being General Secretary of an international organisation has its upside! At the end of April, I was invited to represent MEDASSET at the 37th International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas. Holding a symposium on marine reptiles in the middle of a desert, far from any ocean, may seem a rather eccentric decision but, as it turns out, turtle people will discuss sea turtles and all that concerns their survival more or less anywhere! As a member of the team responsible for the development of our new online game, TEAM TURTLE, I took on the task of announcing its launch to the global sea turtle conservation community, giving a presentation on the way the game took shape and the concepts behind its design.
There were presentations on a huge range of topics from all across the globe, covering the latest advances in subjects as diverse as: mitigating threats from fisheries; the part that citizen scientists can play in gathering reliable data; the ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles; the effects climate change is having on nesting, and much, much more.
I was able to share some of MEDASSET’s long experience in environmental education by taking part in a day-long workshop on the subject, and also introduced the short film we presented during the Video Night. This was about the work of the Healthy Seas Initiative and the clothing young Greek designers made with fabric woven from ECONYL – a yarn made with ghost fishing nets we have been helping to reclaim from the sea bed. There were 450 poster presentations to look at and many old friendships to renew.
Dr Selina Heppell, a respected modeller who works with interpreting statistics, told the audience that it is time we all started communicating more positive messages:
“We’ve been struggling for over 30 years to prevent the extinction of sea turtles and guess what? We have succeeded!” she said, “Conservation works! Now what we need to do is work like mad to ensure their continued survival.”
The challenges have not gone away but we do, thirty years down the line, have a better understanding of what needs to be done. So, we’ll go on sharing new insights with turtlers at international meetings and make sure we’re supporting each other so that our resources are used where they will be most effective. Onward!