What are the main threats?
The main threats which affect marine turtles are:
- Habitat loss and degradation
- Wildlife trade
- Collection of eggs and meat for consumption
- Incidental capture (bycatch)
- Climate change
The belief that turtle eggs have aphrodisiac properties is a major threat to olive ridley populations in Central and South America. The illegal nature of the turtle egg trade makes it difficult to estimate the impact on olive ridley populations but seizures of eggs are not uncommon. The largest on record occurred in October 1996 in Mexico City, when a lorry was seized containing over 500,000 olive ridley eggs, taken from a single beach. The size of this haul indicates a large demand for eggs in Central America and the Hispanic communities of California and Florida.
Olive ridleys were once killed in large numbers for meat and leather. There were many economically important slaughterhouses on Mexico's Pacific coast, where officially over 1 million turtles were killed each year during the 1960s. This slaughter was reduced when legal quotas were introduced, although a smaller illegal industry persists.