Environment News Service: Pope Asked to Help Save Sea Turtles
Posted on Mar 15th, 2002
LOS ANGELES, California, March 15, 2002 (ENS) - A California based conservation group has written to the Vatican asking that turtle meat be declared red meat, and therefore off limits to practicing Catholics during Lent. The group says that consumption of illegally caught turtles is one of the major threats to sea turtles in southern California and Mexico.
Sea turtle carapaces collected over two years in the Bahia Magdalena region. (Photo by Dr. Wallace Nichols, � WiLDCOAST)
Though it has been illegal to harvest and consume sea turtle in Mexico for more than a decade, black market demand for endangered sea turtle meat is widespread in both Southern California and Mexico. Biologists believe that poaching is the main reason for the population's rapid decline over the past 30 years.
Easter Week - Semana Santa in Spanish - is a particularly deadly time for sea turtles. As many as 5,000 turtles will meet with poacher's nets in coming weeks and be served for Easter dinner in some of the region's wealthiest households.
The tradition of eating sea turtle for Semana Santa has its roots in religion. Many abstain from eating meat during this holy time in order to obey Lenten rules.