Sea turtle treaty emerges from its shell

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Photo: Baby leatherback turtle swims freely. Credit: Suzanne Livingstone.

Sea turtle treaty survives but its impact is yet to be determined.

The Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC) has survived the treaty making process and is now in force. A last minute campaign by AIDA and other sea turtle advocates helped ensure the signatures necessary for its survival back in 1998.

The IAC is a key international treaty focused on protecting sea turtles and their habitats. Fourteen, mainly Latin American, countries signed the treaty, with thirteen (as of January 2008) having taken the legally binding step of ratification.

With a swipe of their pen, the representatives of these countries committed to promoting, protecting, and ensuring the recovery of the six endangered or threatened marine turtle species in the Western Hemisphere.

The simple enactment of the treaty is an indication that many countries are recognizing the importance of sea turtles and the need to protect them. Marine sea turtles are considered by many scientists to be the proverbial “canary in the cage” for determining the health of oceans and their ecosystems. Conservation requires international cooperation because one country can undermine the efforts of another.

AIDA is encouraging participating countries to give the treaty “teeth” by committing action plans for carrying out its provisions.

AIDA is also working with committees formed under the IAC to help implement and enforce the Treaty for the benefit of the sea turtles. While success is not guaranteed, AIDA is hopeful that this treaty will have a positive impact on sea turtle conservation throughout the hemisphere.

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