Environment Watch: Padang Beach ‘turtle egg market’, says SETI scientist

The trade of turtle eggs at Padang Beach in West Sumatran capital city Padang has reached worrying levels, with a scientist urging the municipality and the administration to act.

Harfiandri Damanhuri of the Sea Turtle Information Center of Indonesia pointed out the beach now resembled a turtle egg market.

“As far as we’re aware of, it is the biggest and most open place where turtle eggs are being sold in Indonesia, if not the world,” Harfiandri told The Jakarta Post.

Despite the law prohibiting turtle egg exploitation and its inclusion in endangered animal category of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species [CITES] Appendix I, the Padang Beach is home to 21 carts selling turtle eggs every day.

In 2004, between 12 and 20 vendors sell an average of 52 turtle eggs daily at the Padang Beach.

In 2009, the number of traders increased to 21, involved in daily transactions at an average 77.8 eggs at the price of Rp 10,000 [US$1] each.

“The trade in turtle eggs has been going on since 1942 there, but the government’s efforts to curb or ban the practice have been futile.”

Turtle eggs were not only supplied by a number of islands in Pesisir Selatan, Pariaman, Pasaman and Padang city in West Sumatra, but also from Riau Islands province when supplies are short.

Harfiandri said he found eggs from the leatherback turtle being sold at Padang Beach in January.

As many as 105 of its eggs were believed to originate from Batang Kapeh, Pesisir Selatan and 28 eggs from Mentawai Islands. Harfiandri later bought the eggs and attempted to hatch them.

“The government should immediately protect the turtle and ban its trade, such as finding alternative trades for the vendors and suppliers, or provide them with start-up capital to sell other goods,” he said.

West Sumatra Maritime Affairs and Fishery Office head Yosmeri said his office was currently conducting a public awareness campaign to curb the trade.

“The biggest problem is that the islands are customarily owned by the islanders and turtle egg exploitation has taken place for a long time,” Yosmeri told the Post.

“We are currently encouraging them to reduce exploitation by 30 percent and to hatch the other 30 percent.”

He added the turtle egg trade at the Padang Beach could not be banned abruptly because the traders must be educated and find other sources of living.