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Illegal Shell Trade Continuous Threat To Sea Turtles Worldwide

Illegal Shell Trade Continuous Threat To Sea Turtles Worldwide

October 08, 2018

Illegal Shell Trade Continuous Threat To Sea Turtles Worldwide

Sea turtles are amazing creatures considered to be endangered due to current threats to their existence. One of the most beautiful sea creatures in the world, one of the biggest threats to sea turtles is the illegal trade of their shells. In many coastal communities across the world, the trade of sea turtle shells is rampant and unceasing.

Sea Turtles Are Targeted for their Beautiful Shells

The hawksbill sea turtle is one of the most popular species of sea turtle. It’s popular around the world for its striking brown and gold shells. Due to their beautiful shells, hawksbill sea turtles are targeted for centuries to use their shells for jewelry and other items. It’s one of the reasons behind the endangered status of this sea creature.

Illegal Shell Trade is Particular in Coastal Areas

The area where the threat of illicit trade shell is huge is in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Caribbean. Due to the threats against the existence of sea turtles, it’s been expected in a study that the population of hawksbill has declined drastically at around 90% during the past century. For this reason, it’s been decided by 173 governments that the trade of sea turtle shells is illegal.

Over a hundred countries agreed in the CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that trading of sea turtle shells is illegal, to raise their survival. But this is not enough to quell the demand in the black market. The demand for sea turtle shells is especially unyielding in Japan, where it’s been an essential part of the culture.

Sea Turtle Shell Jewelry and Accessories

Hawksbill shell is popular in Japan, where it is called bekko. For over 300 years, Japanese people use bekko for jewelry and accessories such as the bekko comb. It’s a Japanese comb made of sea turtle shell that even to this day remains as an essential part of the traditional Japanese wedding dress. It’s one of the reasons behind the trade in Japan although it has significantly declined since the 20th century.

Lack of Information Fuels the Sea Turtle Shell Trade

Many tourists unwittingly support the trade of sea turtle shell due to the lack of information. Many of them don’t realize that it is illegal and is partly a cause to sea turtles being an endangered species. Not many of them know that it is prohibited by law for them to import, sell or buy any sea turtle products within the U.S. and many other countries in the world.

Due to this, the industry of sea turtle shell jewelry remains one of the most common illegal imported items around the world. They are one of the common items often seized by customs officials with tourists often bringing them back from the Caribbean and other coastal countries. The illegal shell trade is primarily on Hawksbill sea turtles, but there are also other sea turtle species killed for their shells. 

Just like with fighting the poaching of sea turtle, the best solution for sea turtle’s illegal shell trade is to raise people’s awareness of the matter. It includes educating the suppliers and tourists, as well as improving trade controls in supplier and consumer states. Furthermore, it’s vital to enhance the collaboration between relevant groups and government agencies.



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