Federal Judge Allows Sea Turtle Smuggler to Return to Costa Rica with No Penalty

Date: February 1, 1999
Contact: Gary Appelson
(352) 373-6441

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – After Reid’s arrest last summer, CCC worked closely with the USFWS to identify the species of turtles found in Reid’s possession and to determine where in Costa Rica the sea turtle meat and eggs had originated. USFWS agents and CCC believe much of the sea turtle meat and eggs confiscated came from sea turtles nesting on the beaches of Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the site of CCC’s sea turtle research and conservation efforts for more than 40 years. After Reid pleaded guilty, CCC wrote a letter to Judge Johnson explaining the severity of Reid’s crimes and asking for a tough penalty.

“The lack of any sentence by Judge Sterling for a very serious crime flies in the face of the efforts of those countries, including Costa Rica, who are working together to ensure the survival of sea turtles,” said David Godfrey, CCC’s executive director.

In May 1998, the presidents of Costa Rica and Panama signed an agreement, for which CCC provided technical assistance, called The Cooperative Agreement for the Conservation of Sea Turtles of the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. Nicaragua is expected to sign the agreement early this year.

In December of 1998, Honduras and Mexico became the ninth and tenth signatories of the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Honduras and Mexico joined Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela and the United States as signatories of the treaty. The treaty requires member nations to protect sea turtles and their habitats.

U.S. supporters of both treaties said the agreements should ensure that efforts by the USFWS, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and state conservation agencies are not undermined by activities affecting sea turtles when they migrate to the waters of other nations.

“Ironically, in this case, it is our own federal judge who has, by not punishing an admitted sea turtle smuggler, undermined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s enforcement efforts to stop the smuggling of endangered species,” said Godfrey. “This tarnishes the image of the United States as a signatory to the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles.”

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The Sea Turtle Conservancy, formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization based in Florida with offices and projects in several other locations. The Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest and most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world. Since its founding in 1959, the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s work has greatly improved the survival outlook for several species of sea turtles. The Sea Turtle Conservancy has as its mission the protection of sea turtles and the habitats upon which they depend. To achieve its mission, the Sea Turtle Conservancy uses research, habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as its basic tools. These tools are applied in both international and domestic programs focusing on geographic areas that are globally important to sea turtle survival. For more information, visit the STC website atwww.conserveturtles.org or call (800) 678-7853.