hawksbill sea turtle image by Grafner / iStock.

Last week, China’s government revised its list of protected wildlife species for the first time in over 30 years. The revised list added 517 new species and upgraded protections for 65 species to a total of 988 species now under state protection, doubling its previous number. In addition to elevating pangolins to the highest level of protection (Class I) last year, the new list provides this same protection to all 5 species of sea turtle that inhabit China: Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Olive ridley, and Leatherback. Other elevated species include Swinhoe turtle, large-spotted civet, and spotted sandpiper.

Green Turtle image by aon168 / iStock

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” said Yu Chong, WildAid China Chief Representative. 

Class I protection prohibits hunting, killing, smuggling or trading the protected animals with jail sentences up to 10 years for those caught.

 WildAid has been partnering with Fisheries Resource Management Bureau, China Wildlife Conservation Association, and China Sea Turtle Conservation Alliance over the past three years to increase awareness about the impacts on sea turtles from trade in products made from their shells, consumptions for their meat, fishing bycatch, destruction of their feeding and nesting habitats as well as ocean plastic pollution. We have conducted several major campaigns with popular actor Eddie Peng such as our most recent Sea Turtle Warrior campaign and the documentary film “Between the Sea and Shore.”

Eddie Peng is a role model to his fans all over Asia and has long used his voice to raise awareness on environmental issues. WildAid invited him to help bring the plight of sea turtles and ocean health from the periphery to a front and center issue in the public discourse.” Yu added. 

I am a Sea Turtle Warrior from WildAid on Vimeo.

A 2020 public awareness survey revealed positive trends toward reduced purchases of sea turtle products and greater support for sea turtle conservation since 2017, reflecting a 55% decrease in respondents who have purchased sea turtle products in the past year and 46% decrease in the number of people considering making a future purchase.  However, the survey also showed that 18% of respondents have purchased sea turtle products in the last year while 12% would consider buying sea turtle products in the future indicating the importance of strengthening legal protections.

The revised list also added over 450 species to Class II protection as the first time they have had any protection by law in China.

WildAid would like to thank The National Forestry and Grassland Administration and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for their enormous efforts to add so many new threatened and endangered species to this list. 

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $218 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

Journalists on deadline may email communications@wildaid.org