SEA TURTLES, THE CURRENT SITUATION

The protection of the different species of sea turtles is becoming essential, if we want to guarantee their survival.

The decline in turtle populations worldwide is due to various causes: different characteristics of their life cycle, vulnerability in some of their stages, bycatch, ship strikes, marine pollution, accidental ingestion of plastics, consumption of their meat and eggs, habitat destruction and building on their spawning grounds.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) (http://www.iucn.org/), has included sea turtles in their lists of threatened animals. In the category of critically endangered species we find: Lora (Lepidochelys kempi), Carey (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Leatherback (Dermochelys caretta). In the category of endangered species: Boba or Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), Tabasco turtle or White turtle (Chelonia mydas) and Olive Ridley or Olivacea (Lepidochelys olivacea).

They are also listed in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) (www.cites.org) containing all species of animals and plants threatened or endangered.

These lists should give support to governments so they would cooperate with each other to prohibit the international trade of these animals. SITUATION IN CABO VERDE Cabo Verde is the third largest nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles worldwide, with between 9,000 and 22,000 nests per year. It is the only stable nesting spot in the Eastern Atlantic.

Most spawns occur in the eastern islands of the archipelago: Sal, Maio and Bonavista, the latter being the main spawning ground. We also found in the area four other species of turtles: Tabasco turtle or White turtle (youth), Carey (youth), Leatherback turtle (sporadic adults) and Olive Ridley or Olivacea (ill or deceased individuals). The main threats to the turtles found in Cabo Verde are: development of coastal tourism and unsustainable consumption of turtle meat and eggs by local people, despite it being illegal. Unfortunately, human impacts are responsible for the rapid decline of sea turtle populations in recent years. It is important that we educate ourselves on the issues that are destroying our oceans and sea turtle populations.

If we work to solve these problems, we can create a better marine ecosystem that will be mutually beneficial to humans and animals. Despite laws protecting sea turtles in most countries, the illegal trade of their meat of turtles continues to be a threat. In many parts of the world, these animals are harvested for their meat and eggs which are used for human consumption and in some places are considered a delicacy.

Therefore, environmental education, responsible consumption and sustainable tourism are crucial for the survival of sea turtles.

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