MAST Special Issue:

Marine Turtles as Flagships

Guest Editor: Jack Frazier (Smithsonian Institution)

Human societies have used marine turtles as symbols for millennia. Today these
reptiles are employed as flagship species for diverse conservation and community
development projects around the world. Yet, there has been little academic scrutiny
of how marine turtles are employed as flagships or of their effectiveness in that role.
This Special Issue brings together twelve papers from different sites in the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Indian Oceans, as well as from the Caribbean Sea, that examine how
marine turtles have been used as flagship species and how this bears on the
relationship between people and the sea.

The Special Issue demonstrates that conservation of marine turtles, and of the
ecosystems of which they are conspicuous symbols, requires collaboration among
diverse stakeholders and interdisciplinary scientific investigation of these
interactions. While the natural sciences provide the biological context and indicators,
social sciences offer the fundamental role of deciphering social issues over a broad
range, from citizen empowerment and participation in resource management, to
international law and the trade-environment confrontation. The flagship concept
provides a singular tool for mobilising and coordinating conservation, while
furnishing a point of connection and common interest between natural and social

“This issue of MAST documents the importance of sea turtles, but with an interesting
twist. The contributors present the case that sea turtles can serve as symbols around which social behaviour can be organized. Conservation of sea turtles is important biologically and ecologically, but their value to human communities has fundamental social importance, as these innovative contributions make clear. They show that conservation is a social activity.”

Professor Ben Blount, Department of Anthropology,
University of Texas at San Antonio

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