Asian Appetites Threaten Florida Turtles

Conservations warn that state's turtles are being eaten out of existence
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2008 4:16 AM CST
A spiny soft-shell turtle swims at Balmorhea State Park in Toyahvale, Texas.   (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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(Newser) – Asia's insatiable appetite for turtles could be driving some US species to the brink of extinction, the Los Angeles Times reports. The region's newly affluent consumers are happy to shell out top dollar for the delicacy and with most native species already eaten, Florida's turtle exports are booming. Conservationists warn that the creatures are being taken at an unsustainable rate.

Florida dealers export thousands of soft-shell turtles a week in peak season, mostly to China. In September the state instituted a catch limit of 20 turtles a day per person, which was criticized as too low by fishermen and too high by conservationists. "Every boatload of turtles removed from a water body will take years, or even decades, to replace," a group of experts warned. "Turtles cannot replace themselves like gray squirrels, whitetail deer, or even alligators."