Researchers from Arizona State University have published research which estimates the scale of illegal sea turtle poaching.
Scientists estimate that over the previous three decades, more than 1.1 million sea turtles have been poached and killed or trafficked.
The research — published in Global Change Biology — covers the dates from 1990 to 2020, and they estimate that 44,000 sea turtles are exploited every year. The scale of poaching is immense, with illegal poaching occurring in 65 countries and 44 of the 58 most important major turtle populations.
However, not all is bad news, and researchers estimate that illegal exploitation and poaching have declined by 28% over the last decade. This finding surprised the researchers, who had expected the rate to have been flat or slightly increased.
According to Kayla Burgher, a doctoral student in ASU’s environmental life sciences program and co-first author of the study:
“Our assessment is an important foundation for future research and outreach efforts regarding illegal sea turtle exploitation. We believe this study can help conservation practitioners and legislators prioritize conservation efforts and allocate their resources to best help protect sea turtle populations from harmful levels of exploitation worldwide.”
While Jesse Senko, an assistant research professor with the ASU School for the Future of Innovation in Society and co-first author of the study added:
“What this means is that most of these sea turtles came from healthy, low-risk populations, which suggests that, with a few exceptions, current levels of illegal exploitation are likely not having a major detrimental impact on most major sea turtle populations throughout the world’s oceans… Assessing any illegal activity is difficult, and the take and trade of sea turtles is no exception, especially when it becomes organized or connected to crime syndicates. Our assessment also did not include eggs or turtle products, such as bracelets or earrings made from sea turtle shells that could not be easily attributed to individual turtles.”
You can find the original study here.