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
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
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.
• 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
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager