Last week, I traveled with my good friend and Vice President of Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Cheryl King, to the International Summit on Fibropapillomatosis: Global Status, Trends, And Population Impacts. The meeting was convened by the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Service Center and hosted at the Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center (IRC), on Ford Island, an islet in the center of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I’m currently home on the island of Maui, so travel to Honolulu was just a short, 30-minute flight; however, access to the meeting site was a bit more complex due to its location within the restricted Naval Complex on Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, Cheryl has been working on the Hawaiian Islands for quite some time and was able to coordinate the logistics for us to access the site. Each morning we would park at the Arizona Memorial and catch a ride with one of her NOAA federal employee friends onto Ford Island.
The IRC is an award-winning, 350,000 sq. ft., LEED Gold certified facility, built in 2013 from two World War 2-era airplane hangars. The Center houses more than 700 staff members working within 15 NOAA offices including the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.
The purpose of the Fibropapillomatosis Summit was to “provide a forum to assess the status and trends of the disease globally and its demographic impact on sea turtles.”
The summit had the following goals:
- Identify areas where substantial status and trend data exist for fibropapillomatosis in sea turtles.
- Convene an expert working group to evaluate data and identify data gaps.
- Identify priority regions where status and trends data would be desirable.
- Exchange ideas, strengthen skills and share examples of good practice.
- Develop recommendations for standardized monitoring of fibropapillomatosis.
Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a disease which causes the growth of cauliflower-like tumors on sea turtles. The disease is predominately observed in green turtles, but has been recorded in almost all of the 7 species. FP is most commonly found externally on the soft tissue of sea turtles, but can also occurs in and around the mouth and internally. The first documented cases of the disease were in 1938 in Key West, Florida and 1958 in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. FP is a global disease, affecting green sea turtle populations worldwide. It is most common in tropical climates, including the Caribbean (South Florida), Hawaii and Australia.
The summit featured presentations from sea turtle biologists and quantitative specialists from around the world, including: Florida and the SE USA, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, Brazil, West Africa, Australia and Hawaii. There are still many unanswered questions about the disease, but the summit provided a venue to bring scientists together to work towards solutions and management plans.