This project on assessing the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles, its conservation impacts, management options and mitigation priorities contributes to the implementation of CITES Decisions 17.222 and 17.223 on Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and other marine turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae). 

This project was undertaken in collaboration with Jess Williams at Tartarugas para o Amanhā, Praia do Tofo, Inhambane, Mozambique.

The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) contracted the Marine Research Foundation to assess the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles in Madagascar and Mozambique.

This assessment is an outcome of the US-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project Strengthening CITES implementation for selected marine species (US-NOAA Award NA17NMF0080186) to assess the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles, its conservation impacts, management options and mitigation priorities, in implementation of CITES Decisions 17.222 and 17.223.

Within the overall aim of the umbrella project, the specific objectives of the project include the implementation of Decisions 17.222 and 17.223 on Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and other marine turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae). Particularly, the assessment contributes to determining of the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles; determining the conservation impacts associated to this trade; identifying ways to improve the management of marine turtles in the context of this trade; and identifying areas (geographical and operational) where immediate mitigation efforts may be needed.

The Marine Research Foundation was contracted to compile information on the trade in marine turtles where updated, scientifically-sound data is available, and conduct primary research to generate and collect data on the trade in marine turtles where it is non-existing. The specific objectives of the study were (a) to provide a global overview of the status, scope and trends of the international trade in the seven extant, CITES-listed species of marine turtles; (b) to achieve a better understanding of the current and potential conservation impacts associated to current trade levels; (c) to identify management options; (d) to identify areas where immediate mitigation efforts may be needed; and (e) to encourage communication among CITES and its key partners, optimizing resources and enhancing synergies.

Ultimately, the scientific knowledge obtained through the implementation of this study will form the basis for the development of recommendations targeting countries, management bodies (such as RFMOs, local agencies and other authorities) and any other relevant bodies (such as NGOs), as appropriate.

This work led to two major reports which guided CITES in their decision making:

Pilcher NJ & J Williams, 2018. Assessment of the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles, its conservation impacts, management options and mitigation priorities in Mozambique. Report to the CITES Secretariat Project S-527. SSFA/2018/DKA. 68pp.

Williams JL & NJ Pilcher, 2018. Assessment of the status, scope and trends of the legal and illegal international trade in marine turtles, its conservation impacts, management options and mitigation priorities in Madagascar. Report to the CITES Secretariat Project S-527. SSFA/2018/DKA. 72pp.

Photo credit: jess Williams