Widescale Commercial Exploitation of Marine Turtles

Hawksbill Turtle caught off the coast of South Caicos.  Photo by Charlie Gaines.

Hawksbill Turtle caught off the coast of South Caicos. Photo by Charlie Gaines.

There are currently 42 countries catching a total of 42,000 turtles per year leading to all seven marine turtle species becoming endangered.  

Frances Humber and his colleagues from Blue Ventures Conservation conducted a study on current legal direct take of marine turtles and found shocking results that 42 countries and territories allow the direct take of turtles adding up to around 42,000 captures; over 80% of the turtles captured being green turtles.  They also found that there are ten countries responsible for over 90% of legal take each year with some being, Papua New Guinea (36.1%) and Nicaragua (22.3%).

Even though this studies findings show that turtle take has decreased by more than 60% over the past three decades, it is mainly due to large population declines in the four prevalent species of marine turtles resulting from turtle mortality.  The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was developed in 1975 in hopes to reduce demand and promote regional cooperation in increasing turtle populations.  There are currently 178 signatories but due to some countries and territories allowing legal turtle catching, marine turtle species have been listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  These turtles are commercially caught for their valuable meat and sale of their shells.

Turtles are culturally significant in many countries, which is the backbone for control measures on turtle take by governments and authorities.  Previous research has found that with appropriate management, depleted populations can recover while a level of take is still in rule.    The hard part is enacting the correct management due to legal, illegal, and bycatch of marine turtles.


To see the journal click here.


Journal Source:

Frances Humber, Brendan J. Godley, Annette C. Broderick. So excellent a fishe: a global overview of legal   marine turtle fisheries. Diversity and Distributions, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12183


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