Scientists Gather in Baltimore for International Sea Turtle Symposium

Sea turtles have been an integral part of ecosystems for more than 60 million years and, this week, National Aquarium will be co-hosting the 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. 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.

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest watershed on the east coast and home to more than 300 species of aquatic animal.

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.

Your support has been critical to the continued work of our MARP team to rescue and rehabilitate turtles, including this loggerhead hatchling!

Early in the stranding season, National Aquarium rescued this loggerhead hatchling.

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.

Olympian making his way back into the open ocean!

Every patient release is cause for celebration! As was the case with Olympian, a green sea turtle rehabilitated at the Aquarium last year.

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 at the Marriott Waterfront. The exhibit/vendor area will be open to the public on specific days.  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. Click here to download a full event program.

National Aquarium staff and experts will be present at many of the symposium’s events this week and would love to see you there! For more information on registration, click here.

Can’t join us in person? You can still participate online by submitting your questions to us in the comments section! If you could ask a sea turtle expert something, what would you want to know?

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