Hawksbill turtle management and enforcement efforts needed urgently
Two TRAFFIC reports highlight continuing illegal trade in Bekko — products made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle — in these major source countries of Southeast Asia.
TRAFFIC investigators surveyed places in Indonesia and Vietnam in 2001 and 2002 known in the past to have exported Bekko to Japan, historically the main demand country for the products.
The survey found that the Bekko trade continues, but has now largely shifted underground in Indonesia, hindering law enforcement and management efforts. In Vietnam, the trade in turtle products continues openly. The size of this trade, with almost 30,000 items found on offer during TRAFFIC’s survey carried out for the Government of Vietnam in mid-2002, demonstrates that despite new legislation prohibiting exploitation and trade of marine turtles and their products, the law is being ignored by traders.
‘It is impossible to estimate the exact amount of illegal Bekko for sale,” says Chris Shepherd, from TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and co-author of one of the reports. “Based on our findings, the trend in Indonesia is on the decline but it is still vital for Indonesia to seize all illegal Bekko stockpiles in the country in order to help prevent further illegal export, and to improve the management of any remaining stockpiles.”
In Vietnam, relevant enforcement agencies should target marine turtle trade hotspots — places such as Ha Tien, Ho Chi Minh City, and Vung Tau, that were found in the studies to still be producing or selling tortoiseshell items openly.
“The challenge now will be to implement the recommendations of Vietnam’s national action plan for marine turtles,” says Julie Thomson, the Vietnam-based Deputy Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
The results of the reports demonstrate that it has become imperative for both Indonesian and Vietnamese governments to step up their management and enforcement efforts and bring the illegal trade activities to a halt. Also, both governments and NGOs need to continue monitoring of the regional management efforts and report on the developments.
To further support these national initiatives, TRAFFIC hopes that Indonesia will become a member of the regional marine turtle conservation forum, IOSEA*, and a signatory to its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to conserve and recover marine turtle populations and their habitats within the Southeast Asia region and beyond. Vietnam has been a signatory to IOSEA since 2001.
The meeting of IOSEA signatory states that opens tomorrow in Bangkok will be reporting on the progress made by Parties in developing and implementing national Conservation and Management Plans for marine turtles. These plans commit countries to activities such as enacting legislation that controls direct harvest and domestic trade in marine turtles.
"The plans also aim to regulate and share information on trade, to combat illegal trade, and to cooperate in enforcement activities relating to marine turtle products," says Thomson, who will be attending the meeting.
"TRAFFIC urges all ASEAN Member States to ratify the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU and fully implement the actions identified in their Conservation and Management Plans," she adds.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. It works in co-operation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN - The World Conservation Union.
For further information:
Communications Coordinator, TRAFFIC International
Communications Manager, WWF Species Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 9093