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WildAid and Eddie Peng continue fighting for sea turtles | Updated: 2020-10-01 13:50
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Eddie Peng, the China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance and WildAid launched a new campaign in China to inspire public action on saving sea turtles.

In the new campaign, popular actor Eddie Peng encourages the public to become "sea turtle warriors" by taking simple actions that can help reduce threats to sea turtles and other marine wildlife.

"We need many more 'sea turtle warriors.' It doesn't matter your profession or where you live, there are a lot of simple things we can all do to help these animals," said Eddie Peng.

Eddie Peng recently appeared in a film by WildAid about his journey around the world to meet local champions dedicated to protecting sea turtles. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a mixed fate to sea turtles around the world.

The steep decline in crowds on beaches from Brazil to Thailand has resulted in increased numbers of nesting turtles. However, exponential increases in disposable plastic consumption from food delivery and protective equipment are adding to already high levels of plastic debris in the oceans, posing threats to marine life that mistake it as food, especially sea turtles.

Of the seven species of sea turtles, five are found in Chinese waters. The primary active nesting sites in China are now in the remote Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The Huidong Sea Turtle Nature Reserve in Guangdong had around 500 nesting turtles 70 years ago but by 2012 only 2 nesting turtles were counted.

In the last five years, Chinese authorities have intercepted 38 smuggling cases involving sea turtle products including combs, glasses frames, and hand fans. Most commonly seen items are made from hawksbill turtles, with only an estimated 23,000 remaining globally. In August this year, 99 illegally confiscated live sea turtles from Jiangsu province were released back into the wild, some with GPS tags to better understand where they congregate.

While turtle products have historically been popular souvenirs, authorities in China's main 'hotbed' market of Hainan have made numerous arrests since 2019 to bring down major rings supplying the market with sea turtle products and illegally captive breeding sea turtles.

Sea turtles received a boost in conservation priority in China when it was announced they could be upgraded to national level I protected species later this year. This increased protection will lead to stricter penalties on illegal trade, consumption, or capture of sea turtles, and also give turtles more prominence in government plans to help restore their numbers in Chinese waters.

"This potential upgrade in protection status is crucial for strengthened enforcement and more effective conservation efforts for sea turtles in China," said Steve Blake, WildAid China Chief Representative. "We also need the public to join these efforts by reporting sales of illegal sea turtle products, reducing consumption of single use plastic, and supporting local conservation initiatives. There's so much more we can all do," Blake added.

The new campaign will be distributed across the greater China region through online social media partners, China state media, and outdoor advertising in key coastal markets.

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