Federal agencies need to ensure that funds available to support research—both internal and external funds—are invested wisely. At a minimum, all research proposals generated in federal agencies have to be reviewed by panels that include federal and nonfederal scientists.
An example of one system that is working well is the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council (WPRFMC) Sea Turtle Conservation Program. The committee summarizes its approach here, not as a description of what should be done but as a starting point for agency-appropriate plans. The program was established in 2002 to ensure the sustainability of Hawaii-based longline fisheries, contribute to the international transfer of sustainable fishery technology and knowledge, and aid in the recovery of Pacific sea-turtle populations. Since then, WPRFMC has played an instrumental role in fostering collaboration, transferring bycatch-mitigation technology, and advancing the sustainability of fisheries by convening a number of international meetings. It has also played a key role in encouraging sea-turtle research, monitoring, and conservation projects in the Pacific where funding may not have been otherwise available, and its program annually receives a portion of the congressional funding dedicated to Pacific sea-turtle research and conservation. With the advice of its Sea Turtle Advisory Committee (STAC), WPRFMC has been supporting conservation measures since 2003 to offset adverse effects on sea-turtle populations from the Hawaii-based longline fishery. STAC was formed by WPRFMC at the 114th council meeting (August 2002) to direct and advise on its turtle-conservation activities. STAC generally meets once a year and comprises eight well-known sea-turtle biologists and scientists. In FY 2010, WPRFMC initiated an annual unified request for proposal (RFP) process for WPRFMC-funded sea-turtle conservation projects. The RFP process solicits projects focusing on one or more of WPRFMC’s high-priority species and activities, as defined by its five-year plan for 2010–2014 and recommended by STAC. Proposals are reviewed by a panel consisting of WPRFMC staff, STAC members, and additional external reviewers if necessary. All previously funded projects requesting continued support from WPRFMC are subject to annual review through the same RFP process.
Before initiating a research project on sea turtles in the United States that has potential for take, investigators must obtain one or more research