Illegally Harvested Eggs & Hunted for Their Meat
You likely know about some of the most common threats to sea turtles, including pollution, bycatch and coastal developments but what about illegal poaching?
In South America and Asia illegal and unsustainable harvesting of sea turtle eggs occurs as they are used for food as well as some medicinal practices. At some unprotected beaches poachers have been known to harvest over 90% of nests to trade eggs on the black market in illegal wildlife trades.
One example of this is in Nicaragua where locals and fishermen will walk along the beaches at night looking for nests, once they find the nest they will harvest the eggs. Generally these eggs are not consumed or sold in the local area, but instead to restaurants and bars throughout Nicaragua where the eggs are seen as a delicacy. A lot of this trade is due to the rural poverty in the country as well as local cultures around turtle eggs for food.
Hunted for Meat & Shells
In some areas of the world they also consume sea turtle meat as a food source. So hunters will wait on nesting beaches and watch as the females find their spot and lay their eggs, then they will kill the sea turtles and harvest their eggs.
In Mexico as part of a religious holiday many inland communities head to the coast the week before Easter to search for sea turtles and other sea foods with it being estimated that 5,000 turtles can be eaten during this time!
The most common sea turtle that is hunted for their meat is the green sea turtle, however they are not the only ones, hawksbill, loggerhead, the ridley sea turtles and leatherbacks are also known to have been eaten in different regions around the world.
There are laws in place to discourage the hunting of sea turtles, however it is difficult to enforce and more needs to be done to put an end to these illegal hunts.
Not only are sea turtles hunted for their meat though, some species such as the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, a critically endangered species, are hunted for their stunning shells. These shells are used to make jewelry, accessories and souvenirs for tourists.
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