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Egyptian Government Taking Steps to Prevent the Illegal Slaughter of Turtles for Alexandria Fish Market

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The Egyptian Ministry of the Environment is preparing to launch a crackdown on the illegal slaughter of sea turtles to be sold in Alexandria’s fish markets, as reported by online journal Al-Monitor.

Turtles are being sold for up to 1,200 Egyptian pounds – approximately £53 – to locals who believe the meat and blood of the creatures will enhance their sexual prowess and assist with weight loss.

The Alexandria Turtle Rescue Team (ATRT), a group of volunteers formed in 2014, has been trying to prevent the slaughter of sea turtles by buying them from local fishermen before they can be killed, and releasing them back into the sea.

Mau Hamada, head of the ATRT, in an interview with online journal Al-Monitor said: ‘I participated in saving 41 turtles from slaughter during the past three years, and I helped in their rehabilitation and release back in the Mediterranean Sea,’ adding, ‘I still feel guilty about one turtle that I could not save and that was immediately slaughtered to have its meat sold on the market.’

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Shells of freshly slaughtered sea turtles publicly traded in Alexandria’s El Medan fish market. (W.Α. Elmissiry/medasset.org)

The Ministry of Environment is preparing a National Plan for Protection of Turtles along the north coast of Egypt. Loggerhead and green turtles nest in the region and hawksbill and green turtles are popular sightings with divers in the Red Sea to the south. Loggerheads are listed by the IUCN and CITES as vulnerable, green as endangered and the hawksbill as critically endangered.

Mohamed Issawi, director of reserves in the northern coastal area told Al-Monitor that the plan involves ‘several mechanisms, most importantly the formation of a task force for rapid intervention along the coasts to monitor fishermen and fishmongers and ban the trade of endangered species, namely sea turtles, and to release the captured ones in the closest natural habitat.’

‘The plan also includes awareness campaigns for beachgoers and distribution of leaflets on how to handle turtle nests and eggs and how to conserve them,’ Issawi said.

Turtles, like sharks and manta rays, are more valuable to the economy as a whole when they are alive, helping to bring marine tourism to areas that might otherwise struggle financially. The short-term gain of killing such creatures for their meat, fins or gill-rakers is, however, often valuable to impoverished local fishermen. 1200 Egyptian Pounds may not seem like much for a single turtle, but it is the national minimum monthly wage in Egypt.

The Government's plan to help prevent the slaughter of turtles include setting aside money to buy the animals from the fishermen in order to release them back into the wild, as well as local education as to sustainable use of the marine environment.


Photo album from the Alexandria Turtle Rescue Team (Mau Hamada)

 

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