Can You Buy A Sea Turtle Shell?

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The colorful patterns on the shells of sea turtles make them incredibly amazing to look at. Sea turtle shells have been used for making various crafts like jewelry, sunglasses, trinkets, and instruments. You may wonder if you can also buy a sea turtle shell. 

Buying or selling sea turtles and products made from them are illegal in the USA and many other countries. The law also includes the trade of sea turtle shells. Even if you can buy sea turtle shells from where you are, you should not. 

In this article, I will discuss why it is illegal to buy sea turtle shells. Sea turtles are going extinct, and illegal poaching is one of the main reasons. We can prevent the unlawful trading of sea turtles by not buying sea turtle shells and products. 

When Were Sea Turtle Shells Banned?

CITES (the shorter name for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) prohibited tortoiseshell trade in 1977. 173 countries have signed the agreement to protect sea turtles from getting extinct. The government of these countries has declared the sea turtle trade illegal. 

In some states of the USA, like Florida, you will be charged with thousands of dollars and jail time if you are found in possession of sea turtle or sea turtle products. Similar laws are applicable in many other countries. Hence, you better think twice before owning a sea turtle shell. 

However, Japan joined the agreement much later, in the 1990s. The Japanese have been using bekko (accessories and jewelry made from hawksbills) as part of their tradition for almost 300 years. But now, killing sea turtles is banned in Japan. 

Bekko remains in demand, but when someone buys bekko products legally, the product has to be made from hawkbills obtained before the 1994 import ban. 

Although buying and selling sea turtles has been declared illegal in most countries, sea turtle shells are still sold in many black markets. Moreover, many tourists do not know that the sea turtle trade is illegal.

Why You Should Not Buy Sea Turtle Shells?

Crafts and other products made from sea turtles are no doubt attractive. That’s why many people want to have them in their possession. But should you buy sea turtle shells?

You should avoid buying sea turtle shells because they are illegal, and it is not morally right to kill a sea turtle to obtain a shell. Sea turtles play a crucial part in keeping the marine environment balanced. Without them, the marine environment will suffer in many ways. 

Sea turtle shells have been seen as prized processions since ancient times. Different cultures worldwide revered sea turtles as a symbol of protection, endurance, and good luck. Hence, they would also like to have sea turtle shells and crafts made of sea turtle shells. 

Among all the sea turtle species, hawksbills have always been in high demand for their beautiful and durable shells. Japan used to have a massive market of hawksbill turtle shells during the 20th century. 

The trade of sea turtles and sea turtle products where high from 1950 to 1992 because of increased tourism and demand for sea turtle souvenirs. According to a report, 1.3 million hawksbills were imported during these years, and 575,000 juvenile hawksbills were stuffed. Don’t forget that other species of sea turtles were also killed.

The local tourist trades on the shores of the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, and the Americas were thriving on the sea turtle business. In black markets, sea turtle shells can be sold for thousands of dollars. On the other hand, some local markets can sell turtle shells only for a few dollars. Millions of sea turtles have died just to entertain tourists in the last 100 years. 

Do we have the right to kill majestic creatures like sea turtles for recreation? Definitely, no! So, illegal or not, you should not buy sea turtle shells. 

Sea turtles have existed in this world for about 100 million years. These creatures should be protected at all costs. You have the choice of saving them by not buying any sea turtle shells or products. 

Before You Go

Want to know more about legal problems related to keeping sea turtles as pets? Then you can read the following articles for more information:

Can You Keep A Sea Turtle As A Pet?

Are Sea Turtles Illegal? [Most Common Questions Answered]

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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