ESR 7:1-10 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00165

Sea turtle consumption and black market trade in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Agnese Mancini, Volker Koch*

Depto. de Biología Marina, Universidad Autonóma de Baja California Sur, Carretera al Sur km 5.5, 23080 La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: We examined sea turtle consumption and illegal trade in Baja California Sur (BCS) using data from (1) bimonthly surveys at beaches, fishing camps and dumpsites and (2) semi-structured interviews with fishermen. From March 2006 to February 2008, we found the carcasses of 1014 sea turtles;  the meat of 461 of these turtles (45.5%) had been consumed. The East Pacific green turtle Chelonia mydas was the most sought-after species (77% of total consumed turtles). Consumption is still the main cause of mortality for sea turtles and the greatest threat to them in BCS, affecting mostly juvenile-sized specimens. Sea turtle consumption occurred all year round with a lower number recorded from November to February and an increase thereafter. From 151 interviews we identified 3 areas where turtle meat is consumed but not sold, 4 areas with a local black market and 3 areas providing for a regional and/or international black market. Prices vary from 2–5 USD kg–1 (entire turtle sold on the beach) to 4–20 USD kg–1 (meat only). Consumption of sea turtle meat is partly related to cultural factors, as it is consumed more frequently during the Christian fasting period of Lent. While trade and consumption have decreased in recent years, there are still several places that supply sea turtle meat to local, regional, and sometimes even international markets. Authority involvement in sea turtle traffic and the lack of law enforcement need to be addressed to improve sea turtle conservation in the region. The use of both qualitative and quantitative data in the present study has helped to gain a better understanding of sea turtle consumption in BCS.


KEY WORDS: Sea turtle · Poaching · Illegal trade · Northwest Mexico · Mortality · Wild meat · Consumption


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Cite this article as: Mancini A, Koch V (2009) Sea turtle consumption and black market trade in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Endang Species Res 7:1-10. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00165

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