Sea turtle conservation and halfway technology

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Conservation Biology

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How we define a problem often determines what we are willing to consider as a solution. When we define the impending extinction of a sea turtle species solely in terms of there being too few turtles, we are tempted to think of solutions solely in terms of increasing the numbers of turtles. Hence, some of our attempts to conserve sea turtles involve "halfway technology," which does not address the causes of or provide amelioration for the actual threats turtles face. Programs such as headstarting, captive breeding and hatcheries may serve only to release more turtles into a degraded environment in which their parents have already demonstrated that they cannot flourish. Furthermore, captive programs may keep turtles from serving important ecological functions in the natural environment, or place them at some disadvantage relative to their natural counterparts once released. Such programs can be contrasted with more appropriate technologies that directly address and correct particular problems encountered by sea turtles without removing them from their natural habitat. For example, installing turtle excluder devices in shrimp trawl nets will reduce mortality of adults and larger juvenile sea turtles, and using low pressure sodium lighting on beaches may prevent hatchlings and nesting females from becoming disoriented. In the final analysis, we need clean and productive marine and coastal environments. Without a commitment to such long term goals, efforts to protect sea turtles will be futile.

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