Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention
The Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention (IAC) convened its seventh Conference of Parties (COP 7) in Mexico City in June this year. Two resolutions were adopted with specific measures aimed at improving the protection of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback Turtle and the Loggerhead Turtle. In addition the meeting adopted a resolution with recommendations for Costa Rica’s recognized exception for sustainable traditional subsistence use of Olive Ridley eggs.
The Leatherback population in the Eastern Pacific has declined precipitously since the early 1980s. In 2004 the population was found to have declined about 90% since 1980, despite greatly improved protection of nesting beaches since then. When this was first brought to the attention of the IAC in 2004, a resolution was adopted to urge countries to take measures to improve the protection of this turtle. The decline of the population has continued, however, and is now considered to be on the brink of irreversibility. In 2012 a task force was installed to identify specific measures that could improve the situation. The main reason for the decline was suspected to be the artisanal gillnet and longline fisheries along the Pacific coast of South America, because it involves small boats, but very large numbers of them this fishery is badly monitored and there are no observers on board as in the case of the industrial fisheries. Another impact might be from foreign fishing vessels fishing in the high seas where there may be feeding areas where the turtles aggregate. To improve the status of the Eastern Pacific Leatherback measures must be taken to specifically address these issues, and for this reason the COP 7 adopted a new resolution containing such specific measures.
Another resolution adopted addressed improved protection of loggerheads. Four populations of loggerheads fall within the scope of the IAC, the northern Pacific, southern Pacific, northern Atlantic and southern Atlantic populations. The resolution addresses each of those populations with specific actions by and cooperation between the relevant parties.
Finally, the COP 8 made significant progress towards establishment of a permanent secretariat. The USA proposed to continue its hosting of the temporary secretariat and change it into a permanent hosting, formally recognizing its status as an international body which would provide it with diplomatic status and identity, something that various parties wanted for some time. Although the Netherlands had proposed to host the secretariat on Bonaire, it could not provide such international diplomatic status nor all the facilities and the location in Washington that the USA was offering. Consequently the Netherlands is happy to step back in favor of the USA offer. The details of the US offers still need to be worked out over a ninety days period after the COP, and other parties can still also submit hosting offers, but the expectation is that no other parties will do so.