12th meeting of the Scientific Committee of the Inter- American Sea Turtle Convention (IAC)
The Scientific Committee (SC) of the IAC meets annually to discuss the annual reports of the member countries, and threats and impacts on sea turtles on both sides of the American continent. The members consist of scientific experts on sea turtles delegated by the member countries. The Caribbean Netherlands has delegated an expert on Caribbean sea turtles, Dr. Julia Horrocks of the University of the West Indies in Barbados. The SC met in Chile this time. Paul Hoetjes participated as Chair of the Consultative Committee, the other, more policy oriented advisory body of the IAC. The Scientific Committee has several working groups that focus on specific issue. The fisheries WG looks at interactions between sea turtles and fisheries. They are currently looking at an ongoing survey of ‘non-crustacean’ trawling fisheries in member countries to assess its impact on sea turtles. A new Loggerhead turtle WG was formed in response to a Loggerhead resolution passed last year by the Conference of Parties. They will work on a report on Loggerhead populations. The Eastern Pacific Leatherback WG is looking at actions to address the alarming decrease in nesting seen in Eastern Pacific Leatherback turtles, they are working with the Fisheries WG as well , and outside the Scientific committee in a broader task force with the Countries on the West Coast of the Americas, from the USA to Chile. Interactions with artisanal fisheries, the suspected main cause of the decrease, is currently being assessed, and training programs to minimize interactions are taking place. Main outcomes of the meeting:
- The reports of the three countries that have claimed an exception for traditional subsistence harvest of sea turtles, Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica, were reviewed. Recommendations were made to ensure the sustainability of this use.
- The meeting discussed and approved a Technical Document, ”Mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of climate change on nesting beaches” drafted by the Climate Change WG, led by Dr. Julia Horrocks.
- Dr. Horrocks will coordinate a WG with the USA to develop a format to better collect information on climate change parameters on index beaches, to be included in the annual report format so countries can more easily report on their efforts to implement the Resolution on Adaptation of Sea Turtle Habitat to Climate Change.
- Another technical document approved at the meeting was titled “Marine Debris Impacts on Sea Turtles”. The Stranding WG did a preliminary analysis of a questionnaire sent to the member countries they will prepare a technical document on sea turtle strandings for the next meeting.
The full report of the 12th SC meeting is available here