Saturday, November 1, 2008
Save the Softshell
Since 75% of asia's 90 tortoise and freshwater turtle species are now endangered or extinct, they must turn to the global market in order to feed the insatiable demand, particularly that of China. The United States proved to provide the most competitive cost for turtle meat and thus has been a primary source for obtaining the supposedly medicinal and edifying protein source. Gradually, various states have placed bans or restrictions on commercial fishing to protect further species from extinction. The pressure is now on in Florida to protect the species the Chinese claim to have the most palatable meat: the softshell turtle.
Previous restrictions limited commercial fishermen to a few select lakes during the appropriate season and new regulations state that a non-licensed fisherman may only catch 5 turtles per day, while licensed fisherman may take up to 20. Locals and commercial fishermen are outraged at the new limitations and feel there is no threat to the current population, but it seems to me they are ignorant of the reality that it takes 10 years for a turtle to reach maturity. There is no way the current turtle trade can continue to harvest and export up to 3,000 lbs. per week out of Tampa International Airport and expect the species to remain undepleted.
For the fishermen to whine about their change in possible income seems even more rediculous. With the going rate being $2/lb, an agressive fisherman who follows the rules could make $1500 - $2000 per week by harvesting approximately 140 turtles... still too generous, if you ask me. We must urge the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision to act swiftly in their study of the impact on the population and to tighten regulations as soon as possible. While I agree with the Chinese that turtles are truly magical creatures, I do not belive you need to ingest them for your life to be enhanced.