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PNS Daily Newscast - August 14, 2020 


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Scientists: Foreign Demand Could Cause Turtle Extinction

November 20, 2008

Turtle hunting may soon be a thing of the past in Florida, if a group of scientists has their way. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding its first public hearing today to discuss the issue.

Florida turtles are in high demand in East Asian countries, like China, for both meat and medicinal products. In fact, the commission reports as many as 15,000 pounds of soft-shell turtles are shipped live from Florida to foreign markets each week, fetching about $2 a pound. Experts say hunters target Florida because neighboring states have banned turtle harvesting altogether, and the scientists are urging Gov. Crist to follow suit.

Matt Aresco, a spokesperson for the Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, says the turtles are in danger of extinction.

"What we're allowing right now is our Florida turtles being vacuumed up out of our lakes and rivers to the point where we will not have freshwater turtles any longer. There are virtually no turtles left in the wild in all of Southeast Asia. We cannot allow this to happen in Florida."

Critics argue that many of the turtles sold to foreign markets are farm-raised and are a good source of export business.

Aresco argues more than half of the more than 300 turtle species in the world are already endangered, and with turtle hunters using 1,000 baited hooks per mile, the population could rapidly decline even further. The Commission recently limited hunters to 20 soft-shell turtles a day in an effort to reduce the turtle trade, but Aresco says that's not restrictive enough.

"This rate of capture is still too high, and the data we have suggests it is business as usual for the commercial turtle harvesters. That's why we're asking the governor to get involved and urge the commission to put a permanent end to the commercial harvest of turtles in Florida."



Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL