01 Oct 2006 - Mazatlán,
Mexico – Marine turtles in the Carribean region continue to
be exploited at an alarming rate through the trade — both legal
and illegal — of their shells, meat and eggs, according to a
The report, Turning the tide, by TRAFFIC —
the wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF and IUCN, The
World Conservation Union — also revealed that marine turtles
remain without adequate protection in more than half of the
26 countries and territories surveyed in the Lesser Antilles,
Central America, Colombia and Venezuela.
“Regulations and management regimes do not
effectively restrict using marine turtles,” said Steven Broad,
Executive Director of TRAFFIC International. “In many cases,
animals taken are large juveniles and adult turtles, those that
are most important for promoting the recovery of populations.”
Broad added that even in some countries with
comprehensive legislation protecting marine turtles, illegal
takes and trade continue because enforcement is often weak or
In a separate survey conducted last March
in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, TRAFFIC found that shells
of hawksbill turtles were available in both countries, with
large quantities openly offered for sale. In the Dominican Republic,
where legislation prohibits the capture, killing, collection,
and commerce of these animals, one retailer had over 1,500 hawksbill
shell items on display.
Where countries have adopted bans on exploitation,
such as in Barbados, the report showed evidence that their turtles
continue to be exploited elsewhere in the Caribbean where both
legal and illegal takes continue to operate.
“Mechanisms, such as regional management plans,
must be developed and implemented to ensure that countries cooperate
and coordinate their efforts to manage and conserve such a vital
shared resource,” said Dr Karen L. Eckert, one of the authors
of the report.
Six species of marine turtles are found in
the Caribbean — the hawksbill, green, loggerhead, Kemp's ridley,
olive ridley and leatherback — all classified by IUCN as either
"Endangered" or "Critically Endangered".
But despite the gloomy situation in the region,
the report shows some optimism in the growing contribution and
beneficial involvement of rural communities to help conserve
"When local people have opportunities
to help monitor, safeguard and collect information, the investment
in turtle conservation is also an investment in people and their
future livelihoods," Dr Eckert added.
Specific recommendations in the report include:
the establishment of scientifically-based limits on the exploitation
of marine turtles; comprehensive surveys to quantify exploitation;
monitoring and awareness programmes; and better national and
regional law enforcement.
The report is being released to coincide with
the Third Conference of the Parties to the Inter-American Convention
for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC), which
opens today in Mazatlán, Mexico.
• According to TRAFFIC, progress has already
been made in the area of regional cooperation, particularly
with the coming into force in 2000 and 2001, respectively, of
the Protocol to the Cartagena Convention concerning Specially
Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) and the Inter-American Convention
for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, as well
as two CITES Hawksbill Range State dialogue meetings.
• The TRAFFIC report was funded by the Perry
Institute for Marine Science (PIMS), Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle
Conservation Network (WIDECAST), Secretariat of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora
(CITES), Manfred Hermsen Foundation, Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation
• The TRAFFIC survey Tourists, Turtles and
Trinkets: A Look at the Trade in Marine Turtle Products in the
Dominican Republic and Colombia by Adrian Reuter and Crawford
Allan, was funded by the Manfred Hermsen Foundation.
Sabri Zain, Advocacy and Campaigns Director
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager