From: Associated Press
Published January 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Environmentalists Say Hawksbill Sea Turtle in 'Drastic Decline' in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — Activists of the World Wildlife Fund called on Mexico and the Caribbean nations on Tuesday to urgently implement plans to reverse what the organization called "a drastic decline" in the population of hawksbill sea turtles.


The hawksbills are considered endangered, and are one of the seven sea-turtle species that call Mexico home.


The group said the turtle population had fallen to half its previous levels, according to final reports from counts in 2004.


"Until recently, the international scientific community believed this endangered population was on the rise. Current research shows otherwise," WWF said in a press statement.


The population numbers were already low, and are now only about half of the 5,595 nests found in 2000 on the beaches of the Mexican states of Veracruz, Campeche, and Yucatan.


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It called on the government to launch studies to explain the decline, and prevent the population from further diminishing.


Mexican waters are home to seven of the world's eight major species of sea turtle; some are doing poorly, others are recovering. The hawksbill, like most of the other species, also inhabits other parts of the Caribbean and the world, but Mexico is considered one of its main nesting grounds.


The leatherback, turtle, for example is on extinction alert lists worldwide, and its adult population in Mexico appears to be dwindling.


Laws designed to protect sea turtles in Mexico were first approved in 1988 and they were tightened in 2003. Those caught trafficking turtles now can face up to nine years in prison.


Conservation efforts include the creation of 23 sea-turtle sanctuaries in 12 Mexican states. New guidelines require fisherman to abstain from spreading nets in turtle-rich areas.


Conservation efforts have been more successful for other species. In Mexico, the adult population of Olive Ridley sea turtles went from fewer than 3,000 in 1992 to nearly three times that six years later. Its population fell back to just under 5,000 by the year 2001, however.


The Kemp's Ridley species, the smallest variety of sea turtle, saw its population rise from 702 Mexican nests in 1985 to more than 6,400 between 2002 and 2003.


Source: Associated Press


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