Posted by admin | 10.02.2012 | Turtle Talk

How do you like your eggs? Poached?

From the moment their tiny heads breach the sands surface the odds are already stacked against them. Life begins with a frantic dash to the shore break. The lucky ones have made it past the foxes, ghost crabs, and birds so you’d think the safety of the waves would bring relief. On the contrary, a swimming frenzy ensues, their destination, the Sargasso seabeds. This 30 mile journey is fraught with predators and unpredictable dangers. Only 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles will survive into adulthood. To say the least, a sea turtle’s journey for survival is a tumultuous one indeed.

One would think with so many natural obstacles to overcome it is a wonder any make it at all. The unfortunate truth is that the biggest threat to the marine turtle population isn’t some vicious predator of the deep, but humans. For more than 100 million years these ancient mariners have swam the oceans. Yet in less than two centuries human have managed to place 3 of the 7 species on the critically endangered list. Humans contribute too many factors that adversely affect sea turtle populations including, accidental capture, disease, pollution, and habitat loss or degradation. However, the most tragic of our contribution to the sea turtle mortality rate is the continued practice of hunting, poaching, and trading goods made from sea turtles.

The majority of population loss in all seven species is a direct effect of egg poaching. Turtle eggs are considered a delicacy in some countries and a stable food source in others.

Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles are sought after for their meat as it is the main ingredient in turtle soup.  Leather is a product frequently obtained from the skin of the olive ridley turtle. The hawksbill is most often pursued for is carapace which is used to make trinkets that are sold to the “unknowing” tourist. Leatherbacks are rarely hunted for their meat, but their eggs are highly prized. Flatback sea turtles are especially susceptible to poaching because they have fewer eggs than other species.

Many international regulations ban the trading and harvesting of sea turtle products, however these laws are often obscure and hard to implement. Outreach and enforcement are the best tools we have to fight the continued depletion of sea turtle populations. Developing nations need to be further educated on the economic benefit of live turtles versus dead ones. At the same time, established countries should increase penalties for violating the illegal wildlife trade treaties. Hopefully, with the combined effort of many nations, we can bring these magnificent creatures back from the brink of extinction.