Subject: Turtles:Environment-Mexico: Pact to pr (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Fri, 27 Mar 1998 12:55:42 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 98 15:29:00 GMT 
From: r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@sun.simmons.edu
Subject: Environment-Mexico: Pact to pr

Environment-Mexico: Pact to protect turtles

  MEXICO CITY, (Mar. 25) IPS - Environmentalists are putting pressure
on Mexico to ratify a regional agreement to protect marine turtles
in the Americas.
   Greenpeace has challenged the Mexican Ministry of the Environment
and the Mexican Congress to back its statements about the need for
conservation and to take urgent steps to sign the InterAmerican
Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Marine Turtles.
   Juan Carlos Cantu, coordinator of Greenpeace's biodiversity
campaign, told IPS that in order for the agreement to go into
effect, it must be ratified by at least eight countries before the
end of 1998. So far, Brazil, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, the
United States and Venezuela have signed the agreement.
   Honduras is "interested" in joining -- as is Chile, Ecuador,
Guatemala and Belize -- but there is concern because, after
promoting the Convention, Mexico now is hesitating to sign it,
Cantu says. The Mexican government stated previously that it was
putting in motion the required procedures for the country to adopt
the Convention and for Congress to ratify it.
   The president of the National Fishing Institute told IPS that the
agreement is still being studied by the government. Although it
needs the approval of only one ministry for it to be sent to the
Congress before the beginning of the April 15 parliamentary
sessions.
   "The government believes that multilateral agreements and regional
mechanisms are the most appropriate means to protect turtles and
other endangered species such as dolphins and tuna, and it is
completely opposed to unilateral measures like the tuna embargo
that affect our country for years," he added.
   For its part, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) expressed
surprise at the fact that Mexico has not yet signed and ratified
the Convention. Maria Elena Sanchez, coordinator of WWF
biodiversity policies, told IPS that the Convention "is in complete
accord with national legislation and with the studies for the
conservation of marine turtles."
   "The Convention would shore up efforts to protect this highly
migratory species, whose life cycle takes place in different
countries, thus transcending local schemes for sustainable
development," she added.
   In 1994 and 1995, Mexico invited regional experts to help
strengthen the protection of marine turtle. In the past two years,
it ratified the resolutions of the forum of the Latin American
Fishing Development Organization which called for multilateral
efforts on this matter.
   The Convention recognizes that marine turtles are in danger of
extinction in the hemisphere, and that they face threats which are
the direct results of human activity. The document establishes the
need to implement conservation measures in coastal areas in order
to protect turtles and their habitats, and to coordinate the
efforts of different governments in the region to these ends
precisely because it is a migratory species.
   If Mexico ratifies the Convention, other countries would also take
measures to guarantee the survival of turtles, such as Chile and
Peru, where the number of turtles killed in commercial sword-
fishing efforts reaches close to 2,000 per year.
   "This activity is considered the highest source of mortality for
turtles in the Eastern Pacific, and has completely undermined the
conservation efforts carried out by countries such as Mexico,"
Cantu said. "It has been shown that internationally coordinated
conservation efforts guarantee a greater efficiency in the
protection of turtles."
   Greenpeace highlighted the conservation efforts of Cuba, where a
decrease in fishing allowed for an increase in the population of
carey turtles. On the other hand, Greenpeace emphasized the threats
against the lora turtle posed by commercial shrimp fishing in the
Gulf of Mexico.
   In Mexico, like in other countries with both Pacific and Atlantic
coastlines, turtles becomea key part of household economies in
human communities built around central turtle nesting areas.
   Seven of the eight known species of marine turtles arrive on
Mexican beaches. The Escobilla beach, in the southeastern state of
Oaxaca, is considered to be one of the three most important nesting
centers for the dolphin turtle in the world.
   Marine turtles have been a booming business for their meat and
shells in Mexico since the 1950. The year when the largest number
of turtles were trapped was 1986, with a total production of over
15,000 tons. This provoked a severe reduction in the turtle
population.
   A ban on capturing marine turtles has been in effect in mexico
since 1990 and in 1996, legislation was introduced banning the
removal of turtle eggs from nesting sites.