TURTLES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF ILLEGAL TRADE


Environmental Panorama
International
October of 2006

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 new report.

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 non-existent.

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 marine turtles.

"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.

END NOTES:

• 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 and WWF.

• 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

 
 

Source: WWF – World Wildlife Foundation International (http://www.wwf.org)
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