Just last week was the first arrest of a poacher this sea turtle season in Jupiter Island, Florida. Despite there being laws in place to stop poaching of sea turtle eggs, there are still people who are actively, and illegally, doing so. The demand for sea turtle eggs began in the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, sea turtles were not endangered and it was legal to take sea turtle eggs from their nests. However, once the Endangered Species Act of 1973 made it unlawful, sea turtle eggs became a high demand on the black market. According to SEE Turtles, all 7 species of sea turtles are at risk for poaching or trading for their shell, meat, and eggs.
It is difficult to catch poachers red handed because there is no surveillance 24/7 of every sea turtle nest on Florida's coastlines. Although there are not many arrests made for illegal trade or poaching, it is estimated that every year, tens of thousands of sea turtle eggs are taken from their nests.
So what can we do to stop this? First, we can start by educating the public that it is illegal to tamper with a sea turtle nest and illegal to take the eggs - for any reason whatsoever. Poachers who are caught stealing sea turtle eggs and selling them on the black market are typically sentenced with a third-degree felony charge for endangering a protected animal. This is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000 although there have been more severe cases in the past.
By educating the public and strictly enforcing laws against poaching, we can help to save thousands of baby sea turtle lives each year.
The Devocean team is asking that you and anyone you know to not mess with or destroy sea turtle nests when you see them at the beach. Let's leave baby sea turtle eggs where they belong - in their nests - so that they may one day make it to the ocean safe and sound, without the threat of poachers.