On the 14-15th November 2008 a workshop organized by the Aranzadi Sciences Society gathered several researchers and stakeholders at the Aquarium of San Sebastián (Basque Country, Spain) to talk about marine turtles in the north-eastern Atlantic.
Sixteen oral presentations from Ireland to Cape Verde, the Iberian Peninsula, the Atlantic coast of France and the islands of Portugal and Spain plus a by-catch case-study from Uruguay demonstrated how important these waters are for marine turtles, representing a unique geographical area for the study and conservation of these species.
This geographical area provides foraging grounds for the oceanic-pelagic stage of several species and encompasses the third largest nesting rookery of loggerheads in the world (Cape Verde Islands).
Although marine turtles are difficult to observe the work accomplished to date demonstrates that this pelagic habitat is used by several species and across vast regions. Although some turtles strand due to cooler waters, by-catch is undoubtedly a problem, especially for loggerheads. The quantification of by-catch and mitigation measures is a priority, as well as the identification of potential habitats and/or hotspots, mainly for leatherbacks.
At the conclusion of the workshop several key ideas were pointed out, namely the collective responsibility to conserve the species assuming the favourable conditions for the turtles to feed and grow in the NE Atlantic as well as the need to integrate sea turtles in the European Marine Strategy. Several management plans already exist for key species and marine turtles should be included in such list also. Moreover, politicians, stakeholders and public in general should be made aware of the main threats to marine turtles, i.e., we need to translate what we know onto common language how important turtles are in the NE Atlantic.
All the participants left San Sebastián with the collective commitment to work closer together and to develop future priority initiatives in order to improve knowledge and contribute to marine turtles conservation in this area. At times of global climate change and habitat loss ‘we are in a position to make a contribution globally to understand marine turtles ecology’ was the key idea.