Protect Softshell Turtles From Illegal Harvesting

florida_softshell_turtle_by_kerry_wixted

Target: Col. Curtis Brown, Director of Law Enforcement for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Goal: End illegal harvesting of Florida softshell turtles.

Forty softshell turtles were recently captured illegally and found with fish hooks buried in their esophagi, despite a Florida ban on the commercial harvesting of all freshwater turtles. Jie Hua Shen, a Canadian businessman who owns Marine Seafood Inc., pleaded guilty to the crime after the turtles were seized by law enforcement and is being fined $25,000 for smuggling. The fact that such a large-scale importation was attempted despite U.S. and Canadian law demonstrates an urgent need for stricter enforcement and increased protection for softshell turtles.

Freshwater turtles are considered valuable for their meat, which is especially popular in Asia. As a result, illegal trade in turtle parts is flourishing despite laws and regulations aimed at protecting the species. In 2009, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimated that approximately 3,000 pounds of softshell turtles were being imported out of the state every week to be sold in Asian food markets. In response to this growing problem, the commission instated a highly restrictive ban on the commercial harvesting of all freshwater turtles in the interest of protecting not only the state’s endangered turtles but any that might resemble those species, including the softshell.

Jie Hua Shen’s smuggling operation proves that the illegal turtle trade continues to operate behind the scenes despite these protective laws, and stricter enforcement is necessary to protect the Florida softshell turtle from being harvested for its meat. Sign the petition below to demand an increase in law enforcement and better protection for Florida’s softshell turtles.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Brown,

Forty Florida softshell turtles were recently captured and found with fish hooks buried in their esophagi as part of an illegal smuggling operation. Canadian businessman Jie Hua Shen, the owner of Marine Seafood Inc., is being fined $25,000 after pleading guilty to the crime once the turtles were seized by law enforcement. But a simple fine is not enough to keep illegal harvesting from happening again, and this large-scale importation attempt shows a need for stricter law enforcement and increased protection for softshell turtles.

Freshwater turtles are threatened by illegal trade because of the high demand for their meat, which is especially popular in Asia. In 2009, Flordia’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission banned the commercial harvesting of all freshwater turtles in response to an estimate of approximately 3,000 pounds of softshell turtles being exported every week to be sold in Asian food markets.

Jie Hua Shen’s smuggling operation is evidence that the illegal turtle trade is still operating despite the ban. I am urging you to increase regulations and law enforcement to ensure that the ban is respected. Please take action to protect Florida’s softshell turtles from the threat of illegal harvesting.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kerry Wixted

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556 Signatures

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