U.S. Ratifies Treaty to Safeguard Endangered Sea Turtles
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, October 13, 2000 (ENS) - The United States has become
the seventh nation to ratify an international treaty designed to ensure
the continued survival of the six endangered species of sea turtle found
in the Western Hemisphere.
The Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea
Turtles is the first international agreement dedicated solely to raising
standards for the protection of sea turtles.
„All six species of sea turtle found in the Western Hemisphere are
threatened or endangered, some critically so,“ said President Bill
Clinton on signing the instrument of ratification for the treaty. „The
extensive migration patterns of these majestic creatures span thousands
of miles in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Consequently,
effective conservation measures depend on close international
„This treaty fosters that cooperation and serves as a model for others
focused on conserving the world ‚s most endangered species,“ Clinton
said. „This Convention also demonstrates that countries can work
together to protect marine life, and that our trade and environment
policies can be mutually supportive.
The U.S. Senate had to approve the ratification before the President
could sign the treaty.
To bring the treaty into force, the Inter-American Convention must be
ratified by eight countries. So far, seven nations - Venezuela, Peru,
Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the U.S. - have ratified it.
Under the Inter-American Convention, participating countries agree to
conserve sea turtle habitat, protect nesting beaches, limit intentional
and accidental capture, prohibit international trade in sea turtles and
their products, and support sea turtle research.
In the last few decades, human activity and coastal population explosion
has threatened the existence of all seven species of sea turtles:
hawksbill, green, loggerhead, leatherback, Kemp‘s ridley, flatback and
The Inter-American Convention addresses all the major threats to sea
turtle survival, including accidental and intentional capture,
exploitation and habitat destruction.
Sea turtles are highly migratory animals traveling thousands of miles
through the waters of many nations during their lifetime.
„Without international cooperation, the U.S. sea turtle programs can
only reach a certain level of effectiveness,“ said Roger Rufe, president
of the Center for Marine Conservation. „No single nation acting alone
can adequately protect and preserve the world‘s sea turtles. That‘s why
this convention is so vital. It brings these nations together to begin
to tackle the problem globally.“
Marydele Donnelly, program officer for The World Conservation Union’s
(IUCN) Marine Turtle Specialist Group, agreed. „Sea turtles know no
boundaries, and for the first time, countries can work together to
conserve these valuable ecological, cultural and economic resources that
we all share,“ said Donnelly.
The Inter-American Convention provides an effective solution to one of
the major causes of sea turtle mortality - accidental capture and
drowning in shrimp nets. Each member nation has agreed to require the
use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) by its shrimp fishing fleet.
In 1990, the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) was instrumental in
pushing through requirements for the use of TEDs by the U.S. shrimp
fleet. CMC also challenged a recent World Trade Organization ruling,
which found that U.S. trade embargoes imposed upon nations that do not
use TEDs to protect sea turtles were a violation of international trade
The treaty addresses the various concerns of participating countries to
maximize international cooperation in turtle protection.
For example, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have all signed the
Convention, but have yet to ratify it. These three countries permit
legal subsistence use of turtles, while other countries require full
Other countries that have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it
include Honduras and the Netherlands.
„The ratification of the IAC by the U.S. and its neighbors at the
beginning of the 21st century launches us into the most exciting time in
sea turtle conservation, a time for cooperation and collaboration,“ said
Donnelly. „We commend all the governments involved for their dedication
and commitment to the goals of the IAC.“
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