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Concerted efforts are helping curb the illegal marine turtle trade in Beihai, China. Fewer turtles are ending up in the pot following strict enforcement action by the city authorities. — www.worldwildlife.org pic
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SCORE one for the turtle conservationists.
Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic recently announced a dramatic decline in the illegal marine turtle trade in Beihai, China, which had previously been identified by the organisation as a hotspot for the activity.
Surveys this January found just five Hawksbill turtle specimens concealed in a single retail outlet in the city.
This is a stark contrast to May last year when Traffic found more than 80 Hawksbill specimens and thousands of Hawksbill shell products during just two days of monitoring.
The decline follows a suit of measures that were taken, including a concerted clampdown.
The May findings last year were included with a letter by the Guangxi Management Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES MA) to the Beihai municipal government, urging it to take prompt action against the trade.
The latter responded by working together with the Industrial and Commercial Administration, Fishery Department, Forest and Security Police Forces on an intensive enforcement action against the marine turtle trade.
Between June and October last year, 12 marine turtle cases were detected while 14 Hawksbill specimens and 959 Hawksbill shell products were confiscated.
Aside from enforcement, the authorities also conducted initiatives for greater public awareness on the issue, adopted measures to improve the cooperation between the different enforcement agencies and conducted regular inspections of retail outlets in Beihai.
“Traffic applauds the firm action taken by the authorities in Beihai, who are key to combating the illegal marine turtle trade,” says Zhou Fei, Traffic’s China office head.
“The trade has clearly been suppressed for months after the intensive enforcement action took place.
“Most dealers now clearly understand the trade is illegal and forbidden, but the challenge will be to maintain this situation into the foreseeable future,” adds Zhou.
The environmental organisation hopes the latest success in Beihai will be replicated in other Chinese cities to help reduce marine turtle trade nationally.
Based on a 2012 Traffic East Asia study (Market Forces — An Examination of Marine Turtle Trade in China and Japan), the growth of the trade in China and persistent demand from the bekko industry in Japan are factors influencing source country turtle populations in the Coral Triangle region, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Hopefully, this blow to the illegal trade in China will have positive effects on the turtle populations in the source countries.
Traffic’s work in combating illegal marine turtle trade in China is supported by WWF’s Coral Triangle Programme and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).