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• Introduction
Roldán Valverde

The Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, hosted every year by the International Sea Turtle Society (ISTS), is a unique event that draws participants from around the world, from across disciplines and cultures to a common interest and objective: the conservation of sea turtles and their environment. The Symposium encourages discussion, debate, and the sharing of knowledge, research techniques and lessons in conservation to address questions on the biology and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. The 34th Annual Symposium will be held on 10-17 April 2014 in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, before the beginning of the hurricane season.

The City of New Orleans is located on the coast in the middle of the northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico and is easily accessible by land via the interstate highway system (I-10, I-55, I-59), Amtrak South Train Route, and by air through the Louis Armstrong international Airport (MSY). New Orleans is physically located in the southeastern end of the Pontchartrain Basin, a 10,000 square mile watershed, which constitutes one of the largest estuarine systems in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the State of Louisiana does not feature robust sea turtle nesting populations, its state waters are known to serve as important foraging, developmental, and migratory habitat.

The theme of the New Orleans Symposium is "Cultures," in honor of all the cultures that have interacted and continue to interact today with sea turtle populations around the world. During the Symposium we will also honor the Culture of our Society, which focuses on the conservation and study of sea turtle species and their environments. The City of New Orleans is the perfect place for such celebration given its rich heritage; indeed, the region was first inhabited by Choctaw, Houma, and other pre-Colombian native cultures. Later, the City was also influenced by French, Spanish, English, African and Cajun cultures ("Cajun" is Acadian or Acadien (Fr), representing people of French ancestry who colonized Acadia, now Nova Scotia). As a result, the multi-cultural life of the unique City of "Nawlins" (New Orleans) is dominated by festivals (two of the largest being Mardi Gras and the Jazz & Heritage Festival) and its amazing food. This rich cultural heritage and relative proximity to major southern cities, in addition to the exciting scientific program, likely will contribute to attract over 1000 attendees from nearly 80 countries to the Symposium.

Besides the regular sessions normally held at past Symposia, the Nawlins Symposium will feature special sessions on Collaborative Fisheries and on the Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and on the eastern US Seaboard. Among the topics included in the program are marine turtle ecological interactions, linkages among scientists, coastal communities, turtles, humans, consumptive and non-consumptive use, collaborative research, community-based conservation, policy-makers and managers. On 11-13 April we will convene and host several regional meetings and special workshops that will enrich our knowledge and complement our capacities for reaching our conservation goals. On 14-17 April we will have the themed oral and poster sessions, an outstanding group of returning and new Exhibitors and Vendors, as well as traditional Symposium activities.

Evidence indicates that sea turtles evolved well over 100 million years ago; some evidence suggests that the early forms may have evolved over 200 million years ago, before dinosaurs. As a group, these reptiles have withstood various extinction events. However, current species are under significant stress, mainly as a result of technology and industrialization. Indeed, data show that current populations are only a fraction of historical levels; this awareness and reality is what gave rise to our Society, to our Culture of conserving and understanding sea turtle species. This is the culture that together we will celebrate and renew in New Orleans.

Sponsors

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Vaughan W. Brown Charitable Trust

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National Park Service

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