Thousands of Endangered Turtles Killed in Madagascar Despite Bans


Though endangered, the green sea turtle is widely distributed throughout the world's oceans. Photo credit: Jose Calvo/Creative Commons

In Madagascar, the endangered green sea turtle is protected by law. A new study, however, has found that artisanal fishing in remote regions could be responsible for as many as 16,000 turtle deaths each year.

With bans on hunting clearly not working, it's time, researchers say, to investigate alternative conservation plans.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The study is notable not only for its findings. To gather data in these remote coastal settlements, researchers employed local residents to oversea the daily turtle catch. Participants were required to make a count of the daily catch and take a photograph of each turtle.

Frances Humber, one of the researchers who led the study, explained:

This study is a great way of involving communities in the process of finding a sustainable way forward. Obviously we can't be sure every turtle catch is reported, so we view the figures from this study as a conservative estimate which is still nevertheless very valuable for informing policy.

The bans have not worked, researchers believe, because catching the turtles for their meat remains an important part of the coastal Malagasy culture. Participation in the study, however, offers hope that the communities understand the fragility of this resource.

Around the world, conservationists have observed that community involvement has been essential when bans have failed to be effective. Understanding that people are an important part of any ecosystem is critical. The task, then, is to provide the tools necessary for maintaining livelihoods in a way that is sustainable.

When it comes to green turtles in Madagascar, this solution remains elusive. The success of this recent study—despite its alarming findings—however, offers some guidance for future policies.

Read more about conservation:
Community Involvement Essential for the Success of Marine Reserves
Why Wildlife Conservation is Failing (Video)
The Problem With 'Shoot to Kill' Conservation
Artisanal Fishermen Given Exclusive Fishing Zones in Chile to Help Rebuild Fisheries

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Endangered Species