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Sea turtle egg poaching in Central America: How might it be prevented? Beth E. Adubato, Ph.D. New York Institute of Technology Nicole Sachs, M.A. Rutgers.

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Presentation on theme: "Sea turtle egg poaching in Central America: How might it be prevented? Beth E. Adubato, Ph.D. New York Institute of Technology Nicole Sachs, M.A. Rutgers."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sea turtle egg poaching in Central America: How might it be prevented? Beth E. Adubato, Ph.D. New York Institute of Technology Nicole Sachs, M.A. Rutgers School of Criminal Justice Introduction Please address correspondence to Dr. Beth Adubato: Background Policy Implications ALL FOUR SPECIES OF OSAS SEA TURTLES ARE ON THE IUCNs RED LIST: 1.Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas agassizii) 2.Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) 3.Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) 4.Pacific Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) PREDATION OF OSAS SEA TURTLE EGGS Osas sea turtles are confronted by both animal and human predation. As compared to the Costa Rican beaches of Tortuguero, Ostional, Nancite, and Playa Grande where studies have been conducted for over 40 years, Osas beaches have been neglected. While some of the predators were animal predators (39% were dogs, 24% were unknown), the remaining predators were human. Some natives of Costa Rica believe that sea turtle eggs are aphrodisiacs and poachers sell the eggs to local bars. The Osa Peninsula Tourist Board has made some headway with educating Costa Rican natives; a more pernicious problem is Panamanians crossing the border and raiding the beaches, taking eggs and loading them into coolers…by the truckload. THREE-PRONGED APPROACH FOR OSA 1.Enforcement of laws protecting sea turtles 2.Education of local citizens 3.Economic incentives Economic incentives and education of locals are policy measures that are generally acceptable for implementation, but enforcement has been the issue in Costa Ricaespecially on the Osa Peninsula. Before the Osa Tourism Board can plead the case to local law enforcement and to law enforcement in Panama, its members asked for research on the subject. Our study looked at whether enforcement is possible or even efficacious POLICY IMPLICATIONS--EDUCATION For Drake Bay, Florida, an education program is already in place that teaches local awareness of the negative impact of the exploitation of natural resources. This could serve as a model in Central America. Despite both regulation and education, reports of sea turtle and sea turtle egg consumption are ongoing. Education must be increased. Coastal communities that consume sea turtles generally utilize the entire animal. Again, education is needed for local populations to reiterate that the consumption of sea turtles may have adverse health effects because of the presence of bacteria, parasites, and contaminants found in these animals (Aguirre et al., 2006). Heavy metals may be transferred to humans upon consumption because they can persist in high-concentrations in long-lived organisms, such as sea turtles. Human fatalities and illness have been hypothesized as resulting from sea turtle consumption. Most poisoning cases are linked to the four indigenous sea turtles residing in the Osa Peninsula. Some of the contaminants found in these turtles include: cadmium, chlordane, DDT, mercury, and PCBs. Improved education could not only produce better conservation efforts, but would provide public health service. POLICY IMPLICATIONS--ECONOMIC INCENTIVES While there are already economic incentives being stressed throughout the Osa Peninsula by conservation groups--it is done somewhat haphazardly. The ecotourism model developed in Queensland, Australia is turtle-based and would serve as a model. This turtle-based model will not only have an impact on the sea turtle population, but will extend to other wildlife species. Because sea turtles have intrinsic economic value for tourism, conserving them may be socially worthwhile from a utilitarian, economic perspective (Tisdell and Wilson, 2002). POLICY IMPLICATIONS--ENFORCEMENT Clearly, this is the area that leads to the greatest protections for the indigenous sea turtle populations. While Mexican officials may have concerns for their own safety, educational programs in Osa may eliminate similar concerns. Because MINAET is not able to enforce the law, local law enforcement agencies should be accountable. The successful prosecution of poaching felons in Florida could prove to be a model in Central America. Costa Ricas Osa Peninsula boasts of the most abundant wildlife in the country, but all four species of the areas sea turtles are on the IUCNs (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list. This red list indicates that these animals face a high risk of extinction. Most of the worlds sea turtles face this extinction because of human activity; the most common problem is over-development of land key to the turtles habitats. Other threats that sea turtles face include: their shells may be used for jewelry and tortoiseshell items and their leather can be used for tourist trinkets (Tisdell & Wilson, 2002). In addition to these other dangers, Osas sea turtles are confronted by a particularly pernicious problempoaching of their eggs. These eggs are removed in the night, placed in coolers, and loaded on large trucks. They are then taken and sold to bars in Costa Rica and Panama, to be given out as appetizers, the way pretzels or peanuts are. The natives believe the eggs are aphrodisiacs. Utilizing a three-pronged approach with enforcement, education, and economic incentives, this project presents a clear criminological issue with a public policy solution. As with all policy considerations, however, the question remainshow can researchers influence policymakers? Further, how can criminologists influence public policy across international boundaries? Note: * indicates standardized index Research Questions What remediations can curtail the poaching of sea turtle eggs? Can law enforcement officials be persuaded that protection of sea turtle eggs is worthy of police time? P Methodology Comparison of the mortality rates of Osas sea turtles with the rates of sea turtles indigenous to an area with an aggressive enforcement policy. We charted the viability of sea turtle eggs in Florida before and after strict legally-enforced remediation. Compared predation frequencies on four Osa beachesif conservationists and volunteers can reduce predation, would law enforcement produce dramatic results against poaching? Compared rates of sea turtle egg poaching across four areas with anti-poaching policies and variations in enforcement. Table One - Costa Rican Beach Predation BEACHTOTAL # OF NESTS TOTAL PREDATED Rio Piro286 (15%)135 (47%) Pejeperro864 (44%)432 (50%) Rio Oro125 (6%)62 (50%) Carate668 (34%)122 (18%) TOTAL1943 (100%)751 (39%) POLICY IMPLEMENTEDENFORCEMENTDECLINE OR INCREASE IN SEA TURTLE EGG POACHING Mexicos Baja Region 1990PROFEPA LITTLE ENFORCEMENT SLIGHT INCREASE FloridaAmended in 2003DEP STRICT ENFORCEMENT ALMOST 100% DECREASE Gondoca Beach Caribbean, C.R. 1996MINAET INCREASED ENFORCEMENT 84.5% DECREASE Osa Peninsula1996MINAET LITTLE ENFORCMENT 30% INCREASE DISCUSSION CAN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS IN CENTRAL AMERICA BE PERSUADED TO INCREASE PATROL BY POSSIBLE INCREASE ARRESTS AND PROSECUTIONS? In Florida, the amending of the law to make poaching a felony had a Broken Windows Effect on arrest rates. THE CORCOVADO SEA TURTLE FOUNDATION PROGRAM CREDITS ITS SUCCESS WITH ACHIEVING A BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION OBJECTIVES AND LOCAL SOCIOECONOMIC DEVELOPENT. While economic incentive is one prong of the proposed three-pronged policy approach, the issue of the non-local poacher makes it a criminal justice problem in the areas of Osa Peninsula and neighboring Panama.


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