Monday, November 22, 2010

NOAA Sea Turtle Coordinator Sets the Record Straight

NOAA NMFS PIRO (google that!) Sea Turtle Recovery Coordinator Irene Kelly provided a clear overview of the state of understanding about our local sea turtle populations and threats to their recovery in the Marianas. Though published in the Saipan Tribune in May, its worth revisiting as a recent survey of CNMI residents by Pacific Marine Resources Institute showed that the current, available information is not reaching the general public-- an issue that the letter to the editor highlighted. Click here to see the full article.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sea Turtle Film Showing at American Memorial Park

First Friday Films, a partnership between Division of Environmental Quality and National Park Service, sponsors screenings of environmental films at American Memorial Park on the first Friday of every month. This month (Dec. 3, 7 pm) FFF is featuring a short film on hawskbill sea turtle conservation efforts by several communities in Solomon Islands as well as a locally produced film on the Fanihi or Marianas fruitbat. Visit the FFF's Blog for details.

Update on Chuuk Sea Turtle Consumption Mortalities

An article published in the Kasalehlie Press on November 19 reports that the original death toll of three on Murillo Atoll from eating sea turtle meat has risen to seven. There is still no indication of what exactly caused the poisoning, but a post on the CTURTLE listserve from health officials clarified that the cause was not from eating spoiled meat. Read the Kaselehlie Press article here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

$1000 reward for Turtle Poaching Information

Although put this story was new news in 2008, its worth repeating. NOAA Office of Law Enforcement is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of sea turtle poachers in the Marianas. Federal fines are substantially greater than those issued by the local government... up to $25,000 in civil penalties, up to $100,000 in criminal penalties and up to a year in jail. Read an article in Saipan Tribune on the subject here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Man Sentenced for Turtle Poaching on Saipan

Although three other 'fishermen' pled guilty and were also issued jail time, the last defendant was just sentenced. The news of this sentencing is receiving global recognition via the CTURTLE listserve, which published the following:

On Monday Nov. 15, 2010, the Superior Court sentenced Jimmy K. Manalo to six months in prison for removing a green sea turtle from CNMI waters.

The six-month sentence is all suspended except for one month, with credit for time served.

Manalo had admitted that, on Sept. 5, 2010, he with others knowingly and willingly possessed a green sea turtle by removing it from the ocean to the land, violating administrative regulations and laws of the CNMI.

Manalo will be placed on three years of probation, pay a $1000 fine, forfeit the fishing gear used to possess the turtle, and perform community service.

Manalo is barred from boarding a boat for fishing during his probation, and his spearfishing shall be limited and monitored by local conservation authorities.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Hazards of Eating Sea Turtles- To Eat or Not to Eat?

Additional information provided by Wallace J. Nichols to the CTURTLE Listserve in respect to the hazards of eating sea turtle meat and eggs:

A review on the topic:

EcoHealth: Hazards of consuming sea turtle

Aguirre, A. Alonso, Susan C. Gardner, Jesse C. Marsh, Stephen G. Delgado, Colin J. Limpus, and Wallace J. Nichols. 2006. Hazards Associated with the Consumption of Sea Turtle Meat and Eggs: A Review for Health Care Workers and the General Public. EcoHealth. Volume 3, Number 3, September 2006 , pp. 141-153 (13).

And a more specific case study:

EcoHealth: To Eat an Endangered Species?

Senko, J, WJ Nichols, JP Ross, and AS Willcox. In Press. To Eat or not to Eat an Endangered Species: Views of Local Residents and Physicians on the Safety of Sea Turtle Consumption in Northwestern Mexico. EcoHealth.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Turtle Poisoning in Chuuk

This message was originally distributed on the CTURTLE listserve
on Nov. 12, 2010. I is posted here on behalf of Dr. Vita A. Skilling,
Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Affairs, FSM National
Government, Palikir Pohnpei.

Turtle Poisoning in Murilo Atoll, Chuuk State, Federated States of
Micronesia (FSM).

On Sunday, October 17th, 2010, the Federated States of Micronesia
(FSM) Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSA) and the World
Health Organization (WHO) were notified of the sudden death of three
children and the sickening of approximately 20 other persons on
Murilo Island, Chuuk State. The illness was suspected to be the
result of mass consumption of a hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys
imbricata) which had been prepared and served on the afternoon of
Friday, October 15th. Upon receipt of the reports of sudden illness,
an emergency response team was dispatched to Murilo to set up a field
hospital for treatment of victims. Concurrently, an investigation
team was assembled to confirm the cause of the outbreak, describe the
epidemiology of cases, and provide recommendations for control.

The investigative team conducted interviews with key members of the
community in order to determine the cause of the outbreak, conducted
environmental investigation, and questioned all sick persons and a
large proportion of healthy community members.

Four children and two adults died in the outbreak, and approximately
91 others were sickened; approximately 80% of those who ate turtle
became ill. A variety of samples were collected for analysis, though
no autopsies were performed. No laboratory results are available at this time.

The investigators concluded that turtle poisoning (also called
chelonitoxism) was the cause of the mass illness on Murilo; there
does not appear to be any other significant explanation for the mass
illness. Persons from Murilo affected by the illness are not a risk
to others. Because all of the tissue from the turtle has been
consumed or otherwise disposed of, there is no remaining turtle meat
which could lead to further illness. There is no reason to suspect
that reef fish around Murilo are toxic.

The range of illness described in the investigation is consistent
with previously reported cases of chelonitoxism. There is no antidote
or other medicine that can specifically treat chelonitoxism. Children
are expected to be more severely affected. It is not clear why the
two adult males developed serious disease and died, though they may
have consumed a larger amount of turtle than other victims.

All turtles, but particularly hawksbill turtles, are known to be
capable of being poisonous. There is no way to determine which
individual turtles are or are not poisonous. Because there is nothing
unique about Murilo that would result in only Murilo turtles being
toxic, there is no justification for continuing to single out Murilo
(or the Hall Islands) as being at increased risk for chelonitoxism.
Instead, it should be emphasized that any turtles or their eggs,
anywhere, may be toxic.

Since all turtles and their eggs are capable of being toxic, the only
way to insure public health is to avoid consuming any turtles or
their eggs. The FSM DHSA therefore recommends a complete ban on the
consumption of all species of turtles and their eggs in Chuuk and the
rest of FSM. The health sector will be working with lawmakers and
other relevant stakeholders to update turtle management policies.

Though this incident has come to an end, future incidents are certain
to occur unless action is taken to alter turtle-eating behavior in
Chuuk and the rest of FSM.

Boris Pavlin MD MPH
Medical Officer / Country Liaison Officer
Country Liaison Office for Northern Micronesia
World Health Organization

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Green Turtle Photo Project

Below is an email regarding a photo project by Note the deadline is coming up soon: November 15.

The State of the World's Sea Turtles (SWOT) Project and invite you to participate in an exciting community photo project to document the global variation in green turtles.

About SWOT

The SWOT project was established in 2004, and consists of: a global network of more than 500 sea turtle researchers, conservationists, and enthusiasts (the SWOT Team); a regularly updated global database of biogeographical information on all sea turtle species; and an annually published SWOT Report, a communications and networking tool built by and for conservation practitioners. For more information and to see past SWOT Reports, visit

About this Photo Project

The next issue of SWOT Report (volume 6) will have a special feature focusing on green turtles and including articles, photographs and maps. As part of this feature, the project coordinators are currently assembling photographs of green turtles from around the world to create a photo feature within the printed report, online at the SWOT website, and for presentation to the sea turtle community at the 30th Annual Sea Turtle Symposium in San Diego, CA next year. The goal is to assemble as many photographs as possible that show the many variations in green turtle coloration, shape, size, etc. (including black turtles).

Together, we would like to invite you to participate by submitting your green turtle images that meet the guidelines below.As the global network and repository for sea turtle images, the image libraryhas teamed up with SWOT to host the images for this project, and to allow them to live on as a community resource as part of the image library. Already, we have received some very interesting submissions, including an impressive 30 images submitted by Kei Okamoto of green turtles that were bycaught in Japan's coastal waters. To get a sense of the variation in the turtles of just this one region, see the two images to the right. Similar images have also been submitted from French Polynesia, Syria, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Uruguay, Brazil, Malaysia, Iran, Turks & Caicos, Solomon Islands, Italy, several Indian Ocean islands, and more.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for green turtle/black turtle photos that:

  1. Are taken from directly above the turtle,
  2. Show the turtle's full carapace and body,
  3. Are of a living turtle

Images that do not meet these criteria will not be included in the project, but will still be useful to the community at Please only submit photos for which you hold the copyright.

Where/how should images be submitted?

Please upload your images online into the image library category for green turtle images. To do so, you must log-in to, go to the image library page, and choose "upload photos" on the right side of the page. Please include the location of the image in the "Description" field (country and ocean basin). To indicate your permission for the images to be included in SWOT Report and/or on the SWOT website, please put the text "SWOT photo project" in the image's "Description" field. Make sure to also include the photographer/copyright holder's name as you would like it to be credited. Here is an example of an image with the proper metadata -

How will the images be used?

Some images will be used in a photo feature in the printed version of SWOT Report, Vol. 6. Other images will be posted online at the SWOT website ( in a photo collage / feature of some sort (details TBD). We will also prepare a poster for display at the 30th Sea Turtle Symposium in San Diego, CA. All images will be credited to the photographer or copyright holder.

What is the deadline?

Please submit or post your images by November 15, 2010.