Turtles overview

Sea turtles are an at risk species that on several occasions IWMC has recommended for listing in CITES’ appendices. For example, in 2000 at CITES’ CoP-11 in Gigiri, Kenya, IWMC supported the listing of the Spotted turtle in appendix II because the sustainability of this species is genuinely at risk, including by international trade. It takes a long time for this species to reach maturity and its eggs and juveniles have a high mortality rate. Though the main threat to the species is habitat degradation and destruction.

At CoP-11, IWMC recommended that the Parties adopt a proposal by Cuba and Dominica to transfer the population of hawksbill turtles inhabiting Cuban waters from Appendix I to Appendix II. However, IWMC argued against calls for African spurred tortoise – Geochelone sulcata – to be transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I, on the grounds that the proposers had not submitted sufficient evidence.

One of the major threats to sea turtles has been the adverse knock-on impact of shrimp harvesting. The mitigation for this risk is the development of specialised fishing techniques that do not threaten sea turtles.

In 2005 the US government gave a positive rating to eight nations and one economy — the Bahamas, China, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Oman, Peru and Sri Lanka – for harvesting shrimp ‘using manual rather than mechanical means to retrieve nets, or use other fishing methods not harmful to sea turtles’. And it reported that sixteen nations have shrimp fisheries only in cold waters, where the risk of taking sea turtles is negligible: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay. While Trinidad and Tobago and Cost Rica were at that time uncertified. (See Sea Turtle Conservation and Shrimp Imports.)

Latest news

Key fact about 

IWMC Feature

Conservation Influencers

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.

Wildlife Conservation Society

In 1906, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) put an African man on display in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. In 1918, one of WCS’s founding fathers, Madison Grant, published Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his ‘Bible’. Another leading creator and early leader of WCS, Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr, was also a founder of the American Eugenics Society. His son headed WCS from 1940 to 1968, overseeing a series of major initiatives in Africa. There, WCS became one of the architects of the prohibition movement, which put wildlife for consumptive use and vast regions of land out of bounds to humanity. In 2020, WCS distanced itself in public from the racist views of Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. But it has yet to issue a critical account of the legacy of Fairfield Osborn Jr, even though he led WCS into the modern era while sharing similar politically-inspired ecological goals to his father and Grant. WCS devotes considerable financial resources to influencing outcomes at CITES. WCS’s CEO reportedly earns USD$1,320,978.