Scientists from Arizona State University have said in a new study that more than 1.1 million sea turtles have been illegally killed and in some cases trafficked in a 30-year period from 1990 to 2020. The study has been published in Global Change Biology.
It said that in the past decade, up to 44,000 sea turtles were exploited annually in 65 nations or territories and 44 of the 58 major sea turtle populations worldwide. This has happened despite the fact that there are laws in place that forbid their capture and usage, the research further said.
Jesse Senko, an assistant research professor at Arizona State University (ASU) and one of the lead authors of the study, was quoted as saying by The Guardian, “The numbers are really high and almost certainly underrepresented by several orders of magnitude because it’s just very hard to assess any type of illegal activity.”
According to the United Nations, sea turtles are slaughtered primarily for the meat and shells, and their parts are used to make jewellery, artefacts, and traditional medicines. The illegal wildlife trade, which includes turtle hunting and trafficking, is an annual business worth up to $23 billion (20 billion pounds), according to The Guardian.
The scientists were surprised to find that despite the high number of turtles being plundered, the reported illegal exploitation of sea turtles had decreased by about 28 per cent during the last 10 years. They initially anticipated an overall increase in reported poaching.
Kayla Burgher, co-first author of the study and a doctoral student in ASU’s environmental life sciences program in the School of Life Sciences, said, “The decline over the past decade could be due to increased protective legislation and enhanced conservation efforts, coupled with an increase in awareness of the problem or changing local norms and traditions.”
The scientists also discovered that the majority of the reported illegal exploitation during the previous decade occurred in large, stable, and genetically varied sea turtle populations.