Sea turtles have roamed the earth's oceans for more than 200 million years. Yet, during just the past 60 years man has pushed these witnesses of the past to the brink of extinction, and we are well on our way to destroying even the last survivors of this family of marine animals.
A highly developed animal
Sea turtles possess capabilities that cannot fail to astound. Like their terrestrial ancestors, sea turtles lay their eggs on land. This requires a staggering effort on the part of the females, who drag their ponderous bodies out of the sea to dig holes for depositing their eggs far from the water's edge. Sea turtles always return to exactly the same place where they were born and to precisely the same spot where they have always laid their eggs in the sand. Between mating periods, sea turtles make vast journeys, which often take them to other oceans. For example, scientists have found sea turtles in the Mediterranean that were tagged in Florida. Without being disoriented by ocean currents and storms, sea turtles find their way back to their breeding grounds from all points of the compass! No one shows them the way, they simply know it. And to top off this amazing performance, they are able to dive to approx. 1,000 meters and remain submerged for hours at a time without resurfacing for air.
All eight species of marine turtles still living today are threatened by extinction. Despite this sad state of affairs, sea turtles are hunted all over the world. The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) is greatly endangered because of its valuable shell, from which tortoiseshell is obtained for producing eyeglass frames, jewelry and souvenirs. The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) highly prized by so-called "gourmets" and known by the disgusting name "soup turtle" is slaughtered for its meat. Eggs of sea turtles are also in demand as aphrodisiacs, especially in various Asian countries. But marine turtles are not only being decimated for man's palette and purse, they are being drowned in fishnets, poisoned by chemicals and suffocated by plastic and other wastes dumped into our oceans. In addition, the expansion of tourist facilities on the world's beaches is driving sea turtles from their age-old breeding grounds, thus endangering their further survival. Every product from sea turtles, which is offered for sale comes from hunting the creatures in the wild. Sea turtle farms according to CITES regulations do not exist. (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES) affords sea turtles strict protection worldwide. Over 130 nations have signed this Convention. Prohibitions on trade, Export regulations and customs controls are designed to stop and punish those who catch, kill and trade in sea turtles. But many countries are indifferent to the illegal killing of Sea Turtles, while others put up with it and some even support it. Annually, over 100,000 sea turtles are brutally slaughtered.
Instead of fighting against this extermination, efforts are now even being made to relax the regulations protecting sea turtles. At every CITES conference which dealt with the international regulations pertaining to trade in threatened and endangered species, attempts have been made to again allow limited trade in sea turtles!!! How quickly the teeth can be taken out of measures to protect endangered species became evident to all of us in the case when CITES http://www.cites.org has down listed the elephants! If we cannot prevent the same danger from overtaking the sea turtle, one of the last families of fauna representing on our earth long history will be lost forever.
Help protect the sea turtle
In most cases, people who buy or tolerate products made from the shells or meat of sea turtles do so out of ignorance. This is exemplified by the fact that trade in sea turtles continues to flourish. Only by renouncing all that is produced from sea turtles can we stop the slaughter of this wonderful marine creature. We can begin by not buying even the smallest tortoiseshell earrings or by not ordering a bowl of "Lady Curzon" soup (which is prepared with turtle meat). We can boycott shops and restaurants that sell such products and we can w rite to your government's representatives at CITES http://www.cites.org and ask them how they feel about efforts to ease the regulations protecting endangered species. Ask travel agencies to include comments in their literature that will make tourists aware of the sea turtle's plight. Make public relations for the sea turtle wherever you are and whenever you can.
Don't think that such efforts are of no use. On the contrary: all of us who care about the world we live in form a huge army able to fight for the survival of the sea turtle.
The Organization SOS SEATURTLES
The aim of our organization from the very beginning has been to campaign for the sea turtle. We know how slowly the wheels turn at the political level, and for this reason we strive to inform the public directly of the sea turtle's struggle to survive in the hope that as many people as possible will voluntarily refrain from buying products made from this marine animals and supporting the various organizations protecting Sea turtles.
Numerous reports published by us have spread awareness to millions for the alarming decimation of the sea turtle. Pamphlets in various languages explain to tourists what is behind a tortoiseshell bracelet or other souvenirs made from sea turtles. Working together with other organizations, we have helped substantially in getting trade bans or better controls put into force. Travel agencies and scuba diving organizations distribute our literature and diving instructors inform their groups on the spot. But we need even more people to help us in our fight to save the sea turtle.
Please join us in our efforts to protect this marvelous animal. We are counting on you!