To avoid the overlooking of data sources, NMFS should create a metadatabase1 identifying as many of the sea-turtle datasets in the United States and its territories as possible, similar to the document created for in-water projects in Florida. The online database should be updated regularly. As was done with the Florida in-water project, the permits granted for monitoring and research through federal and state agencies can be used to identify many of the projects. The database would provide information on available data, status of each dataset (e.g., computerized, hard-copy only, lost), and contact information but would not include the data.
NMFS and USFWS should partner with other government agencies, universities, and NGOs to develop a mechanism to obtain, computerize, maintain, and make accessible as many sea-turtle databases as possible. There is some urgency in this task while data collectors are still available to provide essential metadata. Such issues as data ownership, authorship requirements, and ensuring appropriate use of data will need to be addressed through data safeguards, extensive outreach, and participant incentives. Priorities for selecting which databases to conserve should be based on the integrity of the data, the amount and type of data, and risk of loss.
NMFS and USFWS should partner with other government agencies, universities, and NGOs to improve coordination among data holders. Incentives should be developed to encourage data sharing; these may include providing participating researchers with data-analysis services and data products, regional data summaries, data backup assurance, assistance with publication of results, and facilitation of collaborative relationships.
The Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network should make information on all stranded turtles available for evaluation at least by review teams and assessment modelers.
NMFS and USFWS should convene a working group of experts in government agencies, academia, and NGOs to consider establishing centralized databases of all sea-turtle data collected in the United States and its territories.
NMFS and USFWS should convene a task force of experts in government agencies, academia, and NGOs to establish standard research