Illegal Poaching of Sea Turtles
Despite laws protecting sea turtles in most countries, the illegal trade of eggs, meat, and shells (known as poaching) of turtles continues to be a threat. In many parts of the world, these animals are harvested for their meat and eggs which are used for human consumption and in some places are considered a delicacy. In many countries, the trade in turtle eggs is a big industry that provides income to many people.
In other parts of the world, including some island nations, sea turtles are used for ceremonial purposes. Their shells and skins are also used to make a variety of objects like jewelry, sunglasses, tourist trinkets, instruments, and wall hangings. The hawksbill is particularly valued for its shell which is used for ornamental purposes.
Lack of enforcement and public awareness are particularly problematic when it comes to illegal trade. As trade occurs across borders between countries, monitoring illegal trade is sometimes impossible. Often illegal activities occur in remote areas and poachers are unable to be found and prosecuted or local officials are not motivated to enforce the laws. Educating local communities on the economic benefit of a live versus a dead sea turtle is essential to eliminating illegal trade.
Many conservation programs are underway worldwide implementing projects which bring more money to local communities in tourism dollars than they would receive from harvesting the animals.
Did You Know?
- All 7 species of sea turtles are at risk of poaching or illegal trade for their meat, eggs, or shell.
- CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is an international agreement between countries that aims to protect species from extinction as a result of trade. This agreement however is voluntary and not all countries around the world are members.
- Some cultures believe sea turtle eggs are aphrodisiacs. There is however, no scientific basis to this belief. In other cultures it is believed that eating them leads to a long life.
What is SEE Turtles?
sea turtle conservation programs
Photo credits: Neil Ever Osborne, Steve Winter