The Dangers Of Eating Sea Turtle Meat

The dangers of eating sea turtle meat – 21.02.2011The Seychelles archipelago is a nesting ground for two species of turtle, the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
In the past the Seychelles islands and the seas around them had a healthy sea turtle population, but due to activities such as beach development, the trade in tortoiseshell and killing of turtles for meat, the numbers have dropped drastically.The Wild Animals (Turtles) Protection Act 1994 made it illegal to catch, injure or kill a turtle as well as to eat turtle or possess any turtle products including eggs, shells, meat and calipee.

Unfortunately, illegal slaughter of sea turtles is still going on in Seychelles. The main factor driving this illegal activity is direct consumption of turtle meat or selling the meat to consumers.

In the past it has been the green turtle that has been targeted for its meat, but because the inner island green turtle nesting population has seen such a massive decline, with only a handful of nesting turtles remaining, the poachers have started targeting hawksbill turtles for meat.

Many people think these beautiful animals need to be protected to preserve a part of Seychellois culture, as a tourist attraction and for the enjoyment of future generations, but there is another very important reason why these creatures should not be killed for meat – the results can be deadly.

Research and reports such as those published by the World Health Organisation and the EcoHealth Journal have shown that the consumption of hawksbill meat can be, and has been, a fatal mistake in numerous cases.

Hawksbill turtles all over the world feed mainly on toxic sponges. It is still a mystery to us that an animal can survive on this diet. The toxins in hawksbill turtle meat actually exceed international food safety standards and can result in neurotoxicity, kidney disease, liver cancer, developmental effects in foetuses and children, and even death.

As such, it is considered highly dangerous, particularly for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children to eat hawksbill turtle meat.

Poisoning by turtle meat is called chelonitoxin or turtle poisoning and has been reported from many countries in the Indian Ocean, including Seychelles. The vast majority of turtle poisoning cases have come from eating hawksbill turtle meat, but green turtle meat can also be poisonous.

An example of the severity of turtle poisoning, published by sea turtle research, comes from India where 12 families shared the meat of one hawksbill turtle.

The meat was prepared as a curry in the afternoon, and by the next day all 130 people who had eaten the meat became unwell. Eventually 18 people died as a result.

In a relatively recent example from 2005, 28 people including six children died in the Solomon Islands after eating turtle meat. A lot of people have had food poisoning due to eating turtle meat but just don’t know about it, or don’t make the connection.

Unknown to many people is the fact that poachers are passing off hawksbill meat as green turtle. This can have serious effects on the consumer’s health, particularly if they are pregnant, nursing or giving meat to children. Do you trust the person selling you what is supposed to be green turtle meat enough to risk your life as well as the lives of others?
How would you feel if someone died as a result of you selling them turtle meat, especially if you tricked them by pretending that hawksbill meat was green turtle?

So if it’s green turtle, it’s OK to eat, right?
The fact is that sea turtles, including green turtles, get sick just like us. A lot of the germs that harm us harm them too. Global epidemics have shown us that chickens, cows and many other animals have passed diseases to humans, which have resulted in a great number of human fatalities.

This can and has happened with green and hawksbill turtle meat consumption.

Some of the infectious agents known to be found in turtle meat are:

? Salmonella bacteria, which can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhoea. In 1999 some 40 people of an aboriginal community in Australia’s Northern Territory fell victim to an outbreak of Salmonella chester and sickened after eating turtle meat.

? Mycobacteria, including the species that causes tuberculosis in people and other animals.

? Chlamydiaceae, the same agents responsible for sexually transmitted chlamydia infections in people.

? Leptospires, corkscrew-shaped bacteria that cause leptospirosis. This disease is also commonly passed to humans from mice and rats.  Some people who become infected show no symptoms. Others develop high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, and vomiting. Jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and a rash may follow.

If it is left untreated, leptospirosis can cause kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress and death. Leptospires were found to be relatively common in green turtle in a survey done in 2003-2004.

? Parasites, including Entamoeba invadens, Cryptosporidium parvum, and trematodes.

Spirorchid trematodes, small flatworms, are a common parasite in sea turtles, especially those with disfiguring tumours known as fibropapillomas.  

Sea turtle meat has also been found to contain very high concentrations of poisonous substances such as cadmium, mercury and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which is one of the best-known synthetic pesticides.

DDTs can cause cancer, damage internal organs and affect unborn children as well as posing other serious health risks.
In many countries people believe that eating turtle meat produces an aphrodisiac effect, but the meat can have high concentrations of pollutants that might actually impair fertility.

Eating sea turtle meat may be considered “high class” by some uninformed people but it is actually dangerous, irresponsible and not a smart idea at all.

Sea turtle meat, even though some people believe it to be a delicacy, is actually a reservoir of poison.
So next time you illegally buy or are given turtle meat, stop and think whether that is actually a good idea, because you might be putting yourself and the people you love in danger.

Contributed by Georgia French
Project coordinator
Marine Conservation Society Seychelles

Photo Courtesy: Andrew Adams (


About narhvalur

Environmentalist, Animal Lover, Birder,Equastrian
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15 Responses to The Dangers Of Eating Sea Turtle Meat

  1. Lindy Lee says:

    Very informative…

  2. narhvalur says:

    Thanks for liking the article! 🙂

  3. osarobohenry says:

    Thank you so much for stopping by at my blog, for reading and for liking some of my posts may the Good Lord open His book of remembrance for you during this season and beyond in the name of Jesus Christ. Happy new year to you and yours.

  4. narhvalur says:

    Thanks for your kindness and
    Happy New Year!

  5. osarobohenry says:

    You are welcome. Blessing!

  6. Alles Gute für 2014.
    Gruß, Wolfgang

  7. narhvalur says:

    Happy New Year Wolfgang!


  8. The most important argument for not eating animal flesh, dairy or eggs: animals are sentient and deserve to not be intentionally exploited by humans, just as humans deserve that right.


  9. narhvalur says:

    Of course I agree with you, but unfortunately state the major religions that Nature and Animals are for humans to exploit. Then a little scare campaign might do some good!

  10. There are ways to explain the moral concepts of Veganism to religious people and others who don’t just get it from the get-go (die-hard holdouts etc,). They rely on appealing to the fact that that most deities claim that cruelty for no good reason is wrong, that we have no need to harm animals and so we should not do it, etc. In the Christian bible there is even a lot of passages about the best way of life being completely plant-based, etc.

  11. narhvalur says:

    My Swedish Church has priests that are hunters and bless hunting, so despite that I Believe in God I’m at war with the Swedish Church over this issue.

  12. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

  13. narhvalur says:

    Thanks Jonathan for reblogging the blog entry! :))))

  14. Very informative! While I would never eat turtle meat, I still find this interesting!

  15. narhvalur says:

    My most popular blog entry ever!:))))

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