After the conclusion of the Inter-American Consultative Committee’s visit to the Tampa Bay Area and the committee’s meeting at Stetson University, Professor Roy Gardner and Mr. Robert Willis met with Dean Bill Hogarth to discuss the potential of bringing the International Sea Turtle Secretariat to the Tampa Bay area. Dean Hogarth is currently the Director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography with the College of Marine Science, USF. In the past, he has served as the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA and he has sat with the International Commission for Atlantic Tuna and the Commission for International Whaling. As such, he is supportive of bringing the Sea Turtle Secretariat to the Tampa Bay area and he hopes the area can become a center for marine policy as well as research.
The Dean understood the difficulty of getting all participant countries to unanimously agree to accept a hosting agreement such as Stetson’s. This agreement is particularly difficult when a hosting proposal, such as Stetson’s, is that of a university instead of the more customary host of a country. Getting federal support in the United States for a smaller treaty such as the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention is difficult enough as it is, but sea turtles are additionally difficult in receiving complete support because their regulation is split between the NOAA and the State Department. This split results from the sea turtle being both terrestrial during nesting and marine during the rest of its lifecycle. The Dean noted some of the challenges in getting federal support for hosting the treaty at Stetson are likely in part because of this double regulation.
Dean Hogarth highlighted a few additional advantages in Tampa Bay for the Secretariat to consider. According to Dean Hogarth, both the Ocean Team of St. Petersburg and the Florida Institute of Oceanography would be highly interested in helping bring the international treaty to a local host. Also, NOAA is increasing its ties to the University of South Florida, potentially bringing one of its large research vessels to be permanently based at the St. Petersburg marine campus. USF Marine Studies program and Stetson are also developing closer ties, as the two are considering developing courses in marine policy, which could draw on the two universities’ expertise. The Dean hopes stronger and more active connections such as this will only strengthen Stetson’s bid to host the Secretariat.
In a final note, Dean Hogarth and Professor Gardner discussed that should the Inter-American Sea Turtle Convention, IAC, decide to be based in the area, other international marine treaty organizations might follow. Hopefully over time, Tampa Bay could be established as a center for international marine treaties. One such example would be the international shark secretariat, which currently is in a similar situation as the IAC with an interim host.