The MTSG was founded in 1966 in response to a growing recognition of the endangered status of marine turtles. Sir Peter Scott asked Archie Carr to establish the group, serve as its chair and appoint its members. Archie Carr remained the MTSG chair until 1984, when he stepped down. At various times throughout his term, Tom Harrisson, Nicholas Mrosovsky, George Balazs, and Karen Bjorndal served as his co-chair or deputy chair. Peter Pritchard also served as Coordinator of Marine Turtle Conservation Programs from 1969 to 1973. At that time, the group consisted of just 15-30 members.
In 1984, Karen Bjorndal was appointed to lead the group, and did so until 1996, with G. Stanley de Silva and George Balazs serving as deputy chairs at different times. Under Karen’s leadership, the group expanded to roughly 200 members from over 50 countries. In 1993, responding to the larger size of the group, an Executive Committee composed of the chair, deputy chair, and seven members was appointed. Marydele Donnelly also became Program Officer in 1994, under support provided by an anonymous donor to the MTSG through the efforts of the Center for Marine Conservation (now The Ocean Conservancy, Washington, DC).
Karen Bjorndal was succeeded by Maria Angela (‘Neca’) Marcovaldi as transitional chair in October 1996, who, together with George Balazs as deputy chair, continued to expand the group and its executive committee.
Alberto Abreu then took over as chair in March 1998, and continued to serve until 2002. During this time, Alberto established the first Regional Vice Chairs, further expanded the membership, and increased MTSG publications. He was succeeded by Perran Ross in October 2002, who served as interim administrator until June 2003, when Roderic Mast and Nicolas Pilcher were appointed as co-chairs to lead the group. Nicolas Pilcher was succeeded by Paolo Casale in October 2015. The current co-chairs (Paolo Casale and Roderic Mast) are assisted by program officer Brian Hutchinson, who has served in this role since 2003.
Timeline of MTSG Chairs:
- 1966 – 1984: Archie Carr
- 1984 – 1996: Karen Bjorndal
- 1996 – 1998: Maria Angela (“Neca”) Marcovaldi
- 1998 – 2002: F. Alberto Abreu-Grobois
- 2003 – 2015: Roderic Mast and Nicolas Pilcher
- 2015 – present: Paolo Casale and Roderic Mast