Over recent years, the national and international illegal trade in marine turtles has been largely under-reported by the 35 Signatory States of the Indian Ocean South East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (IOSEA MoU), despite indications that the illegal trade in the region was expanding. A ground-breaking report on the “Illegal Take and Trade of Marine Turtles in the IOSEA Region” was produced by the IOSEA Secretariat in 2014 to examine the key patterns and trends since the year 2000, as well as to review measures taken by governments, intergovernmental bodies and NGOs to tackle the issue. The following is a summary of the main findings of the report, which was presented to the Seventh Meeting of the IOSEA Signatory States in Bonn, Germany in September 2014. Drivers of the illegal take and trade fall into two main categories: socio-economic (relatively high prices for turtle meat, basic nutritional needs, poverty relief, and demand for luxury goods) and cultural (long-standing beliefs, specific taste preferences). Inadequate legislation and/or enforcement of existing regulations result in the drivers not being addressed. In line with their obligations under CITES and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), virtually all IOSEA Signatory States have enacted legislation to prohibit direct take and trade in turtles and turtle derivatives, but there is still considerable room for improvement in some countries where current fines are an insufficient deterrent, and where existing legislation is neither harmonized nor properly enforced.
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