Policy Initiatives: International Issues: CITES: Sea Turtles and the Conference in Chile

Issue Summary

reefturtDuring the 2002 CITES Conference, Cuba submitted its CITES 2000 proposal to re-open legal international trade in hawksbill turtle shell between Cuba and Japan. Once again, it was strongly opposed by the international scientific and conservation community. Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), then known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, the world’s oldest sea turtle research and protection group, is one of the most active groups opposing Japan and Cuba on this issue.

Then the unexpected happened; in August 2002, Cuba officially withdrew its proposal! The country gave no clear indication as to the reason for the withdrawal, but the move is cause for great celebration among all of us who value the protection of sea turtles, especially the critically endangered hawksbill.

While STC and other groups celebrate the resolution of the hawksbill issue, a new trade proposal from the United Kingdom and the Cayman Islands poses an equally disturbing threat to sea turtles. In this case, the UK delegation is attempting to register the Cayman Turtle Farm as a legal captive-breeding facility for green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Under CITES regulations, animal parts produced in a registered captive-breeding farm are allowed to be traded internationally. Thus, if the measure is approved at the upcoming COP, the Cayman Turtle Farm would become the world’s only legal source for internationally traded green turtle products.

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