A new study shows that, despite laws and public awareness campaigns, the illegal trade of sea turtles is continuing. Researchers believe that current conservation laws need to be “refined and reassessed” in order to more effectively protect these threatened species.
Researchers from the University of Exeter studied the Cape Verde Islands, located off the West Coast of Africa, which are home to one of the world’s biggest loggerhead nesting sites. There, lead author of the study, Joana Hancock, conducted anonymous interviews with people involved in the harvesting, sale, and consumption of turtles. She found that, while harvesting and consumption has decreased in the last decade, some islands have shifted from subsistence to commercial harvesting.
“Reducing illegal harvesting in Cape Verde has been a major conservation challenge in the region, as the third largest loggerhead sea turtle aggregation in the world nests in Cape Verde, facing huge pressure from hunting,” Hancock explained in a news release. “Several strategies have been used to eradicate this problem, with limited impact. We hope that this study sheds some light in aspects that may have been previously overlooked when designing conservation actions and may have positive outcomes in the future.”
The interviews revealed that environmental awareness campaigns and lack of availability played a bigger role in the decrease in turtle consumption than laws designed to protect sea turtles.
“This study demonstrates the need to better understand social aspects of natural resource use and provides particularly relevant insights to inform ongoing decisions about regulations in Cape Verde,” co-author Dr. Ana Nuno said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to use our research to address issues of conservation concern being discussed by decision-makers.”
To learn more:
- Read the Exeter news release: Conservation laws need reshaping to protect sea turtles, research finds
- Read the study abstract: Exploring drivers and deterrents of the illegal consumption and trade of marine turtle products in Cape Verde and implications for conservation planning
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