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Geopolitical Genetics: Claiming the Commons through Species Mapping

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Campbell, Lisa M.; Godfrey, Matthew
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1449
Sector: Fisheries
Subject(s): marine ecology
animal behavior
coastal resources
sea turtles
Abstract: "Our understanding of sea turtle biology, and particularly of sea turtle migrations and population structures, has been increased by advances in genetic analyses that allow turtles found in various and often widely distributed habitats (e.g. nesting beaches, foraging grounds, migratory corridors) to be matched genetically. This relatively recent technological development has implications for how sea turtles are conceived, both as a resource and an object of conservation. Traditionally, populations have been attached to particular nesting beaches, and less often to identifiable in-water habitats, and conservation efforts were similarly focused on discreet geographic locations. The more complete understanding of population structures, achieved via genetic analysis, takes conservation beyond the beach into territorial and international waters. In this way, genetic analysis encourages the scaling up of sea turtle conservation and contributes to a remapping of conservation territory at sea. The broadening of scale at which sea turtle conservation is promoted is accompanied by the disempowerment of local communities and a simultaneous concentration of authority among the few labs conducting genetic analysis of sea turtle samples. In this paper, we explore the implications of genetic analysis for sea turtle conservation, the scale at which it is undertaken, and the variety of actors with competing interests in it, using case studies from the existing biological literature. We are particularly interested in how the claims of local communities living adjacent to sea turtle nesting beaches and in-water habitats are undermined while those of external actors are strengthened, and how theory from common property and science studies can help us understand this transition and its consequences."

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