13 Oct2012

People kill turtles because people buy turtles!

People kill turtles because people buy turtles!


The carapaces were destined for the Hurghada black market where middle-men buy them for an insignificant price (40 to 70 EGP according to the size of the carapace) and then re-sell them for much higher prices. It would seem that some tourists are willing to pay quite handsomely for a clean and shining carapace ignoring the fact that all marine turtles are protected by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES,www.cites.org) which forbids importing and exporting marine turtles and derived products in all the signatory countries (which includes Egypt and most European countries). The trade in hawksbill turtle shells started a long time ago with the Greeks and Romans using it mainly for jewelry. In recent years, the use of turtle shell for utilitarian products (like combs and brushes) was replaced by plastic and now it is only found in luxury products. Hawksbill turtles are considered as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List (www.iucnredlist.org) because of the intensive harvest in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most divers and snorkelers coming to the Red Sea are lucky enough to spot at least one turtle during their stay, however if the demand for turtle products increases, we will see less and less individuals at sea and more and more carapaces for sale. Unfortunately, the trafficking of marine wildlife is not limited to sea turtles only. If you go for a walk in the main shopping areas in Hurghada you will see dry seahorses, shells, starfish and puffer fish for sale. The place of all these animals should be in the sea, where we could all enjoy them while diving or snorkeling. One can think that buying one turtle shell or one seahorse is not a big deal, it is only one and there are hundreds out there. That problem is that there is never just one person asking for these items and the black market is fuelled by the demand and the high price people are willing to pay to bring home a piece of the Red Sea, even a dead piece. So, if you are offered products here in Egypt, or any other tourist destination, made with turtle shell or other marine wildlife, please refuse to buy them. And remember that importing species of animals and plants included on the CITES register is likely to result in the payment of a significant fine and the confiscation of the products you have bought. If there is no demand, the illegal capture and collection of these items will cease and the life in our seas will survive and flourish for future generations to enjoy.

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