Illegal Take and Trade of Marine Turtles in the Indian Ocean Region

Over recent years, the national and international illegal trade in marine turtles and their derivatives has been largely under-reported by the 35 Signatory States of the Indian Ocean South East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA MoU), despite indications that the illegal trade in the region was expanding. A ground-breaking report on the “Illegal Take and Trade of Marine Turtles in the IOSEA Region” was produced by the IOSEA Secretariat in 2014 to examine the key patterns and trends since the year 2000, as well as to review measures taken by governments, intergovernmental bodies and NGOs to tackle the issue. This fact sheet summarises the main findings of that report, which was presented to the Seventh Meeting of the IOSEA Signatory States in Bonn, Germany in September 2014.

Trade in South East Asia

  • The consumption of turtle meat reportedly occurs in 75% of IOSEA Signatory States, while trade in turtle shells is mainly restricted to East Asian countries.
  • The direct exploitation of turtles – for their meat, eggs or shells – is largely concentrated in the Coral Triangle region, which includes the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
  • Within the Coral Triangle region, much of the poaching appears to occur in Indonesian waters. In 2012, the country’s authorities warned that international trafficking of marine turtles was on the rise nationwide due to increasing demand from East Asian countries.
  • ProFauna Indonesia estimated that around 1,115 green turtles were being poached every year in southeast Sulawesi alone in 2008, while a study from 2011 predicted that current poaching levels would lead to the extinction of the Aru green turtle population within two generations. Poaching in Malaysia and trade from there to China and Japan seem equally severe with 342 whole turtles seized between 2000 and 2008. Exact figures are, however, unavailable, as reporting in the region is weak.

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