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Photo: © Mike Parry/Minden Pictures

In August 2005, Conservation International (CI) and the World Conservation Union Species Survival Commission (IUCN-SSC) Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) took the Red List of Threatened Species designations for sea turtle species one step further. They identified ten sea turtle populations that require urgent and immediate conservation action to prevent extinction. Considering population size and decline, degree of threat, and irreplaceability, CI and the MTSG will review this list annually.

Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) in the Pacific: Key leatherback populations in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Malaysia have declined more than 90 percent in less than 20 years, primarily due to the impacts of nearby fisheries and hunting.

Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) in Orissa, India: Mainly due to the impacts of fisheries, trawling, and coastal development in the area, a minimum of 10,000 adult olive Ridleys have been killed each year for the past 10 years.

Kemp's Ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii) throughout their range in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic: The originally small population of Kemp's Ridleys sea turtles has declined more than 95 percent in less than 50 years, primarily due to the impacts of nearby fisheries and hunting.

Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) in the Pacific: Due to hazards associated with fisheries and direct take, loggerhead nesting in the Pacific – principally along the coasts of Japan and Australia – has declined by more than 90 percent over the last 25 years.

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Mediterranean: Coastal development, the fishing industry, and hunting have contributed to a 60 percent to 90 percent decline in green turtle populations in major Turkish breeding colonies over the past 17 years.

All sea turtles in Southeast Asia: Hawksbills, green turtles, and olive Ridleys have suffered substantial declines in nesting in this region, in part due to incidental capture, or bycatch, and hunting.

Loggerheads in the Atlantic: At the major breeding colony at Archie Carr Refuge in Florida, loggerhead nesting has declined by more than 50 percent in the last five years. Costal development and fishing in the region have contributed to this decline.

Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green turtles in the Caribbean: Fisheries bycatch and direct take have contributed to significant decline in these populations – green turtles by more than 95 percent in the last 400 years. The loss of a number of breeding colonies has significantly reduced green turtles' genetic diversity, and current hunting of adult green turtles is great than 11,000 per year in Nicaragua. Hawksbill nesting has declined by more than 60 percent at the largest colony, located in Mexico, in the last five years.

Green turtles and leatherbacks in the Eastern and Southwestern Atlantic: Globally significant nesting and foraging populations are virtually unstudied and threatened by substantial hunting due to extreme local poverty. Leatherbacks that nest along Western Africa face great pressure from fisheries off the coasts of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, where the turtles forage.

Hawksbills in the Indian Ocean: The historical international trade of hawksbill shell has contributed to as much as 95 percent decline in their populations, specifically near Madagascar, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka. Hunting and the recent coastal development of nesting beaches compound this threat.

Resources and Links
CI Wide
CABS: www.biodiversityscience.org
Priority Areas: Key Marine Regions

On The Web
The State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWoT)
IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group
IUCN Species Survival Commission
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Publications & Downloads
Report: The State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWoT) (PDF–3.2mb)
Poster: Ten Most Threatened Sea Turtles in the World (PDF–705kb)


© Jacey Biery
Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting in the Pacific has declined by more than 90 percent over the last 25 years.

© CI, Olivier Langrand
Some green turtle (Chelonia mydas) populations have declined by 60-90 percent in the last 17 years.

© Michael Jensen
A minimum of 10,000 adult olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea) have been killed each year for the past 10 years.

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Photo credits for banner images: (Greater Flamingos © Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures); (Diagonal-banded Sweetlips © Fred Bavendam/Minden Pictures);
(Madagascar Aloe © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hippo © Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures); (Hummingbird © Pete Oxford); (Malagasy Frog © Piotr Naskrecki/CI)