Human Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 743–756 | Cite as

To Poach or Not to Poach an Endangered Species: Elucidating the Economic and Social Drivers Behind Illegal Sea Turtle Hunting in Baja California Sur, Mexico

  • Agnese Mancini
  • Jesse Senko
  • Ricardo Borquez-Reyes
  • Juan Guzman Póo
  • Jeffrey A. Seminoff
  • Volker Koch


Despite complete legal protection, improvements in infrastructure, and market conditions that provide easier access to other protein sources, illegal poaching of sea turtles for consumption in Baja California Sur (BCS), Mexico remains a major threat to their recovery. Few studies have focused on understanding the economic and social drivers behind this activity, which is fundamental to determining best practices for discouraging it. From June 2007 to April 2008 we conducted eight in-depth, semi-structured interviews with sea turtle poachers at five coastal communities in BCS to determine the drivers influencing them. The most prevalent reasons for illegal poaching were direct economic benefits, lack of law enforcement and ease of escape from or bribery of authorities, and strong family tradition. Our results suggest that to reduce illegal poaching it will be necessary to better enforce existing environmental laws, reduce social acceptance of sea turtle hunting throughout the region, educate fishers on the ecological importance of sea turtles, and show fishers direct economic benefits from non-consumptive use of sea turtles, such as ecotourism.


Baja California Sur Mexico Sea turtles Black market Poaching Law enforcement Fisheries Illegal wildlife trade 



We would like to thank the Secretaría para el Medio Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) for providing the permits under which this study was conducted (SGPA/DGVS/03846). This project was funded by Consejo Nacional de Ciencias y Tecnologias (CONACyT) grant SEMARNAT-2004-C01-277. Special thanks to Dr. Milner-Gulland and three anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions that clearly improved this manuscript. We would like to thank all the fishermen that allowed us to interview them. Special thanks go to Javier Villavicencio, Alfredo Benitez, Gabriel Zaragoza, Francisco Fisher, Julio Solis, and Willy for their invaluable help. We would also like to thank the many members of Grupo Tortuguero for supporting our project. AM was funded by Rufford Small Grants for Conservation and Society for Conservation GIS (SGIS).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Agnese Mancini
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jesse Senko
    • 2
  • Ricardo Borquez-Reyes
    • 1
  • Juan Guzman Póo
    • 1
  • Jeffrey A. Seminoff
    • 3
  • Volker Koch
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Universidad Autonóma de Baja California Sur, Depto. de Biología Marina, Carretera al SurLa PazMexico
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Marine Turtle Ecology and Assessment Program, NOAA—National Marine Fishery Service, Southwest Fishery Science CentreLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Investigación para la Conservación y el DesarrolloLa PazMexico
  5. 5.Boomerang For Earth ConservationAntonyFrance

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