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The Case of the Green Turtle: An Uncensored History of a Conservation Icon Hardcover – May 31 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr (May 31 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1421405792
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421405797
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


While I recommend this book for readers interested in sea turtle and herpetological history, it will also give readers with no knowledge outside of academia a glimpse into the world of policy and politics in the conservation of amphibians and reptiles. -- C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr. Herpetological Review Holds many lessons for those interested in the conservation of marine creatures and of biodiversity in general. Choice The story of efforts to save green sea turtles, including by farming them, illustrates conflicts common to conservation work. Science News A marvelous study of the history of global efforts to conserve the wide-ranging green turtle... Rieser's tour-de-force makes compelling reading because it is packed with intrigue, almost like a spy novel. It is a page turner and a must-read for all those engaged in trying to stem the illicit trade in wildlife products. -- Nigel Smith AAG Review of Books Rieser shares with us an exhaustive, rich and mind-blowing historical narrative supported by crucial evidence and resources. [ The Case of the Green Turtle] is an extremely valuable contribution to understanding Latin America's wildlife conservation and an important story for all those concerned with saving our natural world. -- Rikke Schmidt Kjaergaard Journal of Latin American Geography

About the Author

Alison Rieser is the Dai Ho Chun Distinguished Professor of ocean policy in the Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, and a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1052be8) out of 5 stars 20 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa10c0da4) out of 5 stars A well-done history of the exploitation and conservation of the green sea turtle April 16 2013
By ARH - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
OK, I'm a sucker for pretty much anything that has to do with the ocean. With that being said, I jumped at the chance to give this book a read.

To begin with, this is NOT a book that describes the natural history or biology of the green sea turtle. What it IS, is an account of the exploitation and conservation history of this iconic species, including policy proposals, implications, legal battles, and national and international players, including nations around the world where sea turtles live, and where their products were consumed (e.g., turtle soup, wax, tortoise shell-products, leather, etc.).

Rieser, a professor of marine policy at the University of Hawaii, is well-trained and well placed to write this history. Her credentials and experience greatly increase the value of her book.

The story of the green sea turtle and almost all sea turtle species has a happier ending (at least so far) than that of just about any other exploited marine resource. If the topic of marine conservation interests you, you might consider reading The Unnatural History of the Sea for more examples of humanity's exploitation of the sea.

Anyway, the general pattern of human exploitation of wild populations of commercially marketable marine species (whales to seaweeds) goes something like this:
1) Discover a resource
2) Create a new market or exploit an existing market for/with the resource
3) Develop luxury status for resource if possible to drive prices up
4) Continue to exploit the resource as quickly and with the largest possible harvest possible so you get as much of the resource as possible before it falls below levels that can be harvested profitably
5) Having decimated the resource...move on and start exploiting a similar resource or exploit the same resource, but in a different location
6) Repeat.

Rieser tells the story of the exploitation history of the green sea turtle, a species with a world-wide tropical and subtropical distribution. It was exploited for its meat and its eggs. You will be amazed at how many eggs have been harvested annually when you read the book. You will also be amazed at how oblivious we (humans) were to the impacts our hunting of adult turtles and collecting eggs their eggs, together with coastal development and destruction of nesting beaches, were having on the populations of sea turtles worldwide.

I have to admit that I found the first chapter or two a little dry, but once I got rolling, I really enjoyed the book. Rieser's writing does not get in the way of the story being told. She also does not editorialize or act the pundit as the story unfolds. She simply lets the story and related events unfold and tell the story on their own.

This is not a bleeding-heart tree-hugger book. It is, instead, a meaningful account of the exploitation, then overexploitation, and then conservation efforts made to protect the green sea turtle.

5 stars, even though it has a slow start. I'll be adding this to the book list I provide to my marine biology students.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa10c0f18) out of 5 stars Academic overview of green turtle preservation politics Oct. 14 2012
By M. Hyman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, it is a fascinating story tracing the conservation politics employed to try to preserve the green turtle. The book traces early farming and exploitation of the turtles, as well as the generation of scientists and conservationists who attempted to understand the life cycles of the turtles, their precipitous decline, and what it would take to preserve the species. It shows the ongoing tension between industry and conservation, and the complexity of international politics and inertia. And, of course, while the conservationists and politicians talked and debated, the turtles continued to be killed at alarmingly destructive rates. The book provides in interesting view of how hard it is to make conservation decisions, as well as how hard it is to understand animal life, with its incredibly complex life cycles and webs. It is filled with a depth of facts and information. If you are looking for a scholarly examination of these issues, the book is a good fit. If, on the other hand, you want more of a lay persons view, you may find the book hard to approach -- it isn't at all designed to be popular science. Given that I am outside of the field and was looking to the book for more human interest, it was a tough book to finish. I wanted very much to understand what happened, but didn't want to go through all of the details to get there. As such, it is much more focused for those in the field, or perhaps graduate students, than the general public. As a result, my views are mixed. It is in depth and covers and important topic, but it wasn't as approachable as I had hoped. I don't look at this as a fault of the book, but more a difference between what i was looking for and what it provided.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa106d84c) out of 5 stars A History of Conservationists Themselves Sept. 6 2012
By Bruce Trinque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"The Case of the Green Sea Turtle: An Uncensored History of a Conservation Icon" is far less about green sea turtles as about the people who over the decades have championed efforts to protect and preserve sea turtles. As far back as the latter Nineteenth century, it has been recognized that certain populations of these turtles were in danger. Various species and breeding populations were found scattered across the entire tropical world: Florida and the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, Africa, Australia, and the East Indies. The particular details of its life cycle make it particularlyvulnerable to exploitation: when females emerge from the sea to lay eggs, they are very easy to capture and kill; juveniles feeding on shallow beds of sea weed are nearly as easily captured; the eggs themselves are readily dug up before hatching. The migratory nature of these animals expose them to dangers at locations hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. And there were a range of human hungers that placed the turtles in danger. During the age of sail, the green sea turtles provided a readily transported food supply. Later, turtle soup became a desirable luxury food and, then, a fashionable commodity. Some native peoples entusiastically consumed the eggs. Sea turle leather was made into shoes and belts and handbags. Eyeglass frames and jewelry was fashioned from turtles shells. Many details of the green sea turles' natural history were hidden from human study, and agreement as to how best protect the animals was difficult to achieve.

This book focuses in on the 1970s when a fierce debate was waged between those who believed that fostering commercial farming of the turtles was a viable way to take pressure from hunting the animals in the wild by providing an abundant quantity of superior product. Other scientists argued that commercial farming would only causea greater threat to the wild population by increasind demand for the sea turtles and thus making poaching more profitable. Leaders on bothe sides of the debate were sincere in their beliefs, working from the same available information (and handicapped by the lack of more detailed information). In the end, conservation decisions were more the product of ideology than science.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1064330) out of 5 stars The reality show that is species conservation... Sept. 3 2012
By Darwin's Bulldog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I've long had the idea that species conservation is a modern problem... modern technology has for example enabled the virtually complete exterpation of the north atlantic cod population and fishery. So it was with some surise that, at least for the green turtle, this issue goes back well over 100 years. Seems that if a species has any commercial value, there will be an effort to capture and sell as many as possible with no regard for sustainability or environmental consequence.

This book covers the effort to protect green turtle populations world wide. It is a 'reality show' of enormous proportion, with all the complications of commercial profit interests, personal livelihood, and even scientific integrity. For the average reader this book may be somewhat overwhelming; the writing is dense, and full of detail. But for a person interested in conservation activity, well worthy of five stars. Certainly every student of natural resources or conservation should read this book to gain insight into the complicaitons that need to be overcome.

Much of modern biological training is focused at the molecular level, yet the fundamental issues of feeding and sustaining Earth's growing population are directly tied to sustainability of natural food sources. This book should be seen as a detailed examination of one example that holds implications for the world as a whole.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1064654) out of 5 stars Insights about humanity's relationship with a natural world in peril Sept. 26 2012
By Malvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"The Case of the Green Turtle" by Alison Rieser is an engrossing history of the green turtle's odyssey from the abundant and exploited to the rare and protected. The author painstakingly reconstructs events in the pivotal mid-twentieth century when humanity struggled to find solutions to the turtle's plight before it became too late. Expertly written and well-illustrated with photos, this exceedingly well-researched and fascinating book will appeal to everyone interested in environmental history and environmental politics.

Ms. Rieser is a professor of ocean policy who is most interested in getting the story right. We learn about the factors that drove turtle populations towards extinction over the course of many decades of commercial exploitation, consumerism, drift nets and the loss of the turtle's native habitat. We meet the people who cared about the turtles enough to study them and who sought to develop strategies to save them. As legislation lagged behind the reality of the turtle's rapidly changing status from threatened to endangered, the author reconstructs the heated debate that ensued between mariculturists and conservationists as to determine the most appropriate response to the turtle's decline.

Full of insights about humanity's relationship with a natural world in peril, I highly recommend this outstanding book to everyone.