Target: President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla
Goal: Reinstate the ban on harvesting sea turtle eggs in Costa Rica
In an effort to help the floundering sea turtle population in Costa Rica, the Costa Rican government created the Sea Turtle Restoration Project in 1989, which allowed the legal harvesting of sea turtle eggs. The idea behind the program was to permit a small amount of egg harvesting at certain times early on in the nesting season. Sea turtle mothers who lay their eggs later in the season often accidentally destroy the nests of previous turtles, crushing the unborn hatchlings and causing bacteria to contaminate the nearby sand. Collecting the eggs before they could potentially be destroyed could help to curb illegal poaching with relatively little effect on sea turtle population. At least, that was what the program hoped to accomplish.
According to an economic analysis by the country, “flooding the market with these legally harvested eggs (sold at a low price controlled by the government) would decrease overall poaching throughout the country by bringing down the value of turtle eggs in the black market.” However, illegal poaching of turtle eggs has continued in the past twenty years due to their continued high value in the black market. These eggs are considered to have holistic properties in cultures around the globe, and therefore there is still a huge demand for sea turtle eggs. Costa Rica is economically unable to fully regulate illegal sea turtle egg poaching, so the black market continues to flourish.
Despite some success from the project, such as the stabilization of certain sea turtle populations at specific sites, the program has not been widely helpful. The continued illegal harvesting of sea turtle eggs negates any minor successes. Furthermore, according to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s official website, “biologists have not demonstrably proven that the egg harvesting improves hatchling success.”
Sea turtles face a serious threat from egg poachers, but their greatest threat comes from pollution, plastic, fishing nets and hunters who wish to sell their meat. Allowing a legal harvest of sea turtle eggs does nothing to address these issues.
Urge the government of Costa Rica to reinstate a total ban on the harvesting of sea turtle eggs, and help to decrease illegal poaching more effectively. Furthermore, ask that leaders focus efforts on strictly enforcing the already established laws against capturing, killing or disturbing sea turtles in any way.
Dear President Laura Chinchilla,
The Sea Turtle Restoration Program established in 1989 has done little to help endangered sea turtles. Despite the programs intention of curbing illegal egg harvesting by allowing a legal harvest early in the season, unlawful poaching of sea turtle eggs and their sale in the black market continues.
Furthermore, harvesting has not been shown to increase sea turtle success. While specific populations may be stabilized, a species that remains popular in the black market cannot achieve true sustainability.
I urge you to focus preservation efforts on strictly enforcing laws that “mandate three years of prison for anyone who kills, hunts, captures, decapitates, or disturbs marine turtles.” Furthermore, I ask that you reinstate the ban on all sea turtle egg harvesting, thereby reducing illegal poaching altogether.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Wildlifeppl via Wikimedia